Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 197 Comments »
I spent a lot of last night and this morning watching Jairus Byrd. I wanted to get as good a feel for him as possible. And I think I did.
Let’s start with the basic facts:
Age 27 … will turn 28 in October
5 years in the NFL
Didn’t miss a game from 2010-2012
Missed 5 games in 2013. Had a foot issue, but also was objecting to the use of the franchise tag.
22 career INTs
11 career FFs
33 career pass deflections
10 career TFLs
3 career sacks
260 career tackles
Played CB at Oregon from 2006-08. Left a year early for the NFL. Ran poorly (4.6 range) so he was moved to S.
Byrd is a good Safety. He has outstanding cover skills and really impacts the passing game, but he is only an average hitter, tackler and run defender.
The Bills mostly had Byrd line up as the deep Safety. That’s where he is most effective. He doesn’t have ideal speed so staying deep and being able to read plays helps him to get to the ball. Byrd sees the field well and has good instincts. He has excellent feet and a very quick burst. Byrd has great ball skills. He is able to go over or around receivers and make a play on the ball without drawing a flag.
Byrd is more of a natural centerfielder than a man-to-man cover guy. He loves to watch the QB and jump routes. Byrd gets into proper position to play the ball even before the QB releases the ball. Veteran QBs know this and will avoid throwing his way. Byrd had 4 INTs in 2013 and 3 of them came off rookie QBs. The other INT was a deep ball thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. He made a poor decision and Byrd made him pay for that.
Byrd is not a physical player. There were plays in 2 games where receivers caught a pass inside the 10-yard line, got hit by Byrd, and still scored a TD. One of the players was Jimmy Graham so that’s somewhat understandable. The other player was Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas. Byrd tried to land a big hit on him instead of wrapping up. The hit wasn’t hard and Douglas shrugged it off and scored the TD.
There were a couple of other plays in the Falcons game that bothered me. They had TD runs of 27 and 38 yards. Byrd was playing back off the ball on both runs. He didn’t get anywhere close to making a tackle on either play. One of the benefits to keeping the FS that far back is that he generally will keep plays in front of him. Byrd’s lack of speed kept him from even getting close enough to the runners to dive at them.
Byrd isn’t a hesitant tackler. He does generally wrap-up his targets. The problem is that he’s not forceful. To put it in football terms, he runs to the target and not through the target. He will miss some occasional tackles in space. Byrd isn’t the most active run defender on inside runs. He generally stays back to see if the RB leaks out.
If you are looking for a FS to sit in the deep middle and play the ball, Jairus Byrd is your man. QBs fear him and hesitate before throwing in his direction. When they do, he’s able to make a decent number of plays. And you do wonder if playing on a winning team would help his numbers. If he’s sitting back in centerfield and the other QB has to throw due to trailing in the game, Byrd might thrive. The Bills haven’t finished better than 6-10 during his career.
Is Byrd the right man for the Eagles? That’s a tough question. Chip Kelly loves turnovers so he might strongly push for a FS that has great ball skills. At the same time, Bill Davis loves to have his DBs keep plays in front of them and then attack. Byrd can do that, but might not be as good a tackler as Davis would prefer. The Eagles were hurt time and again by sloppy tackling on 3rd and long situations in 2013.
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Some of you objected to the fact I didn’t call Byrd “great” in a previous post. Please understand that I choose my words carefully. I think the word great is thrown around far too casually in sports (and by society in general). Jairus Byrd has some great elements to his game, but is not a great overall player. You are welcome to have a different opinion, but understand that I’m hesitant to use the word great intentionally.
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While watching Byrd, I also took the time to check out a few other free agents in a less thorough manner. These are incomplete opinions since I didn’t see enough to make a thorough judgment, but figured you would enjoy knowing my initial thoughts.
Malcolm Jenkins – I like him quite a bit. Good man cover skills. Versatile. Physical player.
Chris Clemons – Didn’t stand out to me.
Thomas DeCoud – I was surprised by the fact he looked pretty good in coverage. Bad tackler. I know why they cut him.
Jason Worilds – Didn’t stand out as a pass rusher. Struggled with setting the edge. Surprised to see him cover TEs effectively.
I did not watch any of T.J. Ward. He will be my primary focus tonight. Looking forward to that.
Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »
Monday was the deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise and transition tags. So let’s talk about the moves and non-moves that could affect the Eagles.
Safety T.J Ward – no tag
Safety Jairus Byrd – no tag
OLB Jason Worilds – transition tag
OLB Brian Orakpo – franchise tag
The Eagles did not use either of their tags. There are no more free agents that the Eagles feel deserve it. The team will re-sign P Donnie Jones soon enough. The Eagles did get DE Cedric Thornton to sign his 1-year deal. Thornton was an exclusive rights free agent. That meant he couldn’t sign with anyone else so the deal was a mere formality.
I’m sure the Eagles would like to lock him up to a long term deal. Part of the issue with Ced is that he was so ineffective as a pass rusher in 2013. He’d like to improve there to raise his value. The Eagles love him, but the lack of pass rush skills does affect his value.
As to outside players, the news about the OLBs isn’t ideal. I was surprised the Skins hesitated in putting the tag on Orakpo. He’s the kind of player you want to draft, develop and then keep. Worilds is an ascending player that the Eagles are likely to have some interest in. The transition tag allows the Steelers to match any offer that Worilds gets. Pittsburgh has some cap issues so a creative offer could be tough for them to match.
Some people think that the Steelers will have to cut OLB LaMarr Woodley in order to keep Worilds. Before you get excited about Woodley, he is going to turn 30 in November and he is coming off consecutive years with declining production (4 sacks in 2012, 5 sacks in 2013). That’s pretty much the opposite of an Eagles target.
There could be a healthy market for Worilds. While I think the Eagles will have some interest, he’s not a player you go all-in on. Worilds best years are ahead of him. The question is how good those years will be. Is Worilds going to become a top flight pass rusher or is he going to level out as a solid pass rusher? Think of the difference in James Harrison vs Clark Haggans (both Steelers LBs that developed over time).
The news on the DBs is interesting. We heard Byrd would be hitting the market. I wasn’t so sure about Ward. We haven’t heard anything about a bad relationship between him and the Browns. They have the cap room and the franchise tag price for Safeties isn’t that high compared to other positions. The Browns weren’t able to get a deal done with C Alex Mack so they decided to use the transition tag on him. They’re going to keep talking to Ward, but there won’t be any tag for him.
The Eagles will have interest in both guys. I’m just not sure how aggressively they’ll go after the players. Ward is the better hitter/tackler, while Byrd is more of the ballhawk. One x-factor in all of this is that we don’t know what Bill Davis would ideally want in a Safety. Does he want physicality or ball skills? The moves the Eagles make this offseason (free agency and the draft) will give us a hint about what Davis and Kelly are looking for.
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Someone brought up Nate Allen’s situation in the previous comments section. I still think the Eagles have interest in bringing him back, but obviously only at the right price. Allen might want to test the market himself. He knows he won’t get big bucks, but it only takes one team to give you a better deal than you were originally expecting.
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This situation remains highly confusing. I’m expecting the Sixers to start inquiring about him soon. He is 6-6, after all.
Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 156 Comments »
Free agency starts next week. The Eagles have the money to be big players. They clearly have holes on the roster so logic would tell you they could go spend some money on big free agents to shore up the roster.
But is that the smart thing to do?
The Eagles signed several big name free agents in 2011 and got very mixed results. Last year the team went a different route and focused on mid-level guys. The results were much better. One of the big differences in the groups was character. The Eagles got team guys last March. Connor Barwin, team leader. Cary Williams, team leader. Bradley Fletcher, good locker room guy. Even a player like Isaac Sopoaga who flopped was a good locker room presence.
I’m real curious to see how Howie Roseman handles free agency this time around. Last year the Eagles were making a big transition on defense and they needed volume. They were smart to go after several mid-level guys rather than a couple of stars. The circumstances are different this year. The needs are more specific. Targeting high dollar players makes more sense.
But you do have the Chip Kelly factor. He wants the right kind of players. Kelly needs guys that will buy in to his program. Not all free agents are open-minded. Many come with a major sense of entitlement, which is greatly helped by the huge contract the team just handed them. The scouting department will put together detailed reports on the free agents, but just as important as their play on the field will be what kind of guys they are.
I have no idea if Jairus Byrd is a good guy or flaming jerk. Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon during Byrd’s final 2 seasons there. They won’t be close, but Kelly will have some idea what kind of guy Byrd is. That will affect the Eagles interest. Safeties like Mike Mitchell, Chris Clemons, Malcolm Jenkins and Thomas DeCoud could be total mysteries to Kelly. The Eagles will have some info on them, but there will be some guessing involved.
OLBs like Brian Orakpo and Jason Worilds will probably be mysteries as well. You can bet the Eagles will do lots of research on them.
Howie Roseman is aggressive. That’s just the kind of person he is. But he’s not reckless. He’s shown that he can sit back and be conservative in the draft and free agency. He prefers making big moves, but you can’t force them. And after the success of the last 2 drafts and last year’s free agency, I’m sure Roseman is trying to learn from what he did right in those cases.
The Eagles have signed some elite free agents over the years and gotten great results. The Andy Reid era wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without Jon Runyan at RT. The Eagles made him the highest paid OL in league history back in 2000. That was money well spent. The Eagles don’t go to the Super Bowl without Jevon Kearse. The Eagles got good production from Asante Samuel. You can hit home runs in free agency. You just have to understand that the misses can be very painful. Stacy Andrews is not a beloved name in Eagles history.
My guess is that the Eagles will be aggressive, in a controlled fashion. They will target a couple of high dollar players and will go after them. The Eagles won’t be afraid to walk away, though. I don’t think there is anyone on the market that you just hand a blank check to. I can’t stress enough that I think Kelly wanting the right kind of guys will impact the moves. The players brought in last year were all grinders and they fit the culture. The Eagles were a real “team” and that felt like a tangible part of their success.
I can’t wait to see how Roseman and Kelly handle free agency this year. With every move they make, we learn a little bit more about the new way of doing business. Next week should be pretty interesting.
Posted: March 2nd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 131 Comments »
Big news out of Buffalo today. There are reports that the Bills will not use the franchise tag on Jairus Byrd, their star Safety. The Bills hope to still get a deal done with him, but I get the feeling that’s not real likely. For whatever reason, it just feels like Byrd wants to play for someone else. Obviously money is a huge issue, but reportedly the Bills have already made him offers that would make Byrd the highest paid Safety in the league. If he has rejected those offers, money may not be the only factor.
Will the Eagles be interested in Byrd? You bet.
Will the Eagles sign him? That’s tougher to figure.
Byrd is a very good Safety and that is a position where the Eagles need help in a big way, but I don’t think Byrd is a player you hand a blank check. As Howie Roseman says, you must have a walkaway figure. Lots of teams will have interest in Byrd. I don’t think the Eagles will get into a bidding war for his services. I could see them making a big offer, but I doubt this will be a Jon Runyan/Jevon Kearse/Asante Samuel type of thing. Those guys were given record setting mega-deals.
I didn’t expect the Bills to let Byrd hit the market so I have yet to thoroughly study his 2013 tape. I have watched a bit and there is plenty to like, but Byrd isn’t a great player. He does have some issues. I’ll watch several games and then do a full write-up on him. At the very least, Byrd’s presence on the market could help the Eagles. It might create competition for his services and the Eagles could end up landing someone else. We assume Byrd will be their primary target, but it is possible the team will have some other player in mind.
Byrd isn’t the only free agent of interest who might hit the market.
I don’t really understand this. Why on Earth would you let Orakpo go? He and Ryan Kerrigan make a terrific set of bookend pass rushers. And Orakpo doesn’t seem to be itching to leave. Here’s some comments from the Washington Post article.
Washington Redskins officials were in final deliberations this weekend over what was described as a difficult decision about whether to devote the financial resources necessary to retain outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.
According to several people familiar with the situation, the Redskins like Orakpo as a player and ideally would prefer to keep him. But there have been differing views within the organization, according to those sources, about the wisdom of either using the franchise player tag or pursing an expensive long-term contract with Orakpo when that money and salary cap space instead could be used to address other needs.
“I think there’s a lot of back and forth on it,” said one person with knowledge of the team’s deliberations. “I don’t think it’s clear cut.”
Will the Eagles have interest in Orakpo if he does hit the market? They could. He is a good 3-4 OLB. He’s not great, but is the kind of talented, high character guy that I could see Chip Kelly liking quite a bit.
We’ll find out on Monday if Orakpo gets tagged or not. That will be interesting to follow.
Posted: March 2nd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 96 Comments »
Last night’s post about the DeSean Jackson trade rumor turned into a lengthy discussion. I’m putting this post up so you can continue it if you so desire. The longer a discussion gets, the more complicated it is to follow.
A few follow-up points.
* The argument for trading DeSean doesn’t pass judgment on him from a morals standpoint. No one is saying he’s a bad guy. The theory is that the Eagles may be tired of the drama that he brings with him. Drama doesn’t make you a bad guy. But it doesn’t mean that you’re a good long term fit somewhere.
* If the rumor is true, this is more than just Chip Kelly. Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and some of the assistants may not be DeSean’s biggest fans. “MAY” is the key word there. I don’t know this to be a fact. It is speculation. Clearly if the Eagles keep DeSean around, the organization is okay with him.
* Some of you wonder about trading DeSean because he’s such a special talent. Would it be wise to do that? This is where the discussion gets complicated. Jackson is arguably the fastest player in the league. He can be a major playmaker. At the same time, the guy has 32 TD catches in 6 years. Jackson’s speed is special. His potential is special. His production isn’t. Calvin Johnson has played one more year than DeSean and he’s got 66 TD catches. That’s special production. Pierre Garcon has been in the league the same time as DeSean and he’s got 25 TD catches.
All that said, there is no doubt that just by stepping on the field, DeSean impacts a game. His speed scares defenses.
The question then becomes how you quantify that into a measurable. The Eagles played without DeSean for a while in 2012 and did okay. The Eagles scored 33, 23, 13 and 20 points without him, but with Nick Foles at QB. DeSean is a weapon, but the offense can be productive without him. It is less scary for sure, but still can be productive.
DeSean is not so special that you can’t trade him. He’s just not. But I sure wouldn’t do it lightly. He is a unique talent and you don’t let go of those players unless the circumstances are right.
* I’ll put up a non-DeSean post later today.