More on the Fargo Trip

Posted: July 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 29 Comments »

Robert Griffin III had one of the great rookie seasons ever by a QB. He had a passer rating of over 100, ran for 815 yards and led the Skins to a division title. He got hurt late in the year. RGIII spent the offseason rehabbing. And also trying to market himself. He turned his rehab effort into a marketing campaign. He wanted to be a star on the field and a celebrity off it.

Cade McNown did not have nearly as much success as a rookie. He struggled for the Bears in 1999, but did start six games and showed some promise. He should have spent the offseason honing his game and focusing on football. Instead, he spent too much time at the Playboy Mansion. He dated Brande Roderick and then tried to steal Heather Kozar from another rookie QB, Tim Couch. McNown was so obsessive with his behavior that Hugh Hefner banned him from the mansion.

Johnny Manziel. (Do I even need to say anything?)

Young QBs come and go for a variety of reasons. Some get hurt. Some play in terrible circumstances. Some just aren’t that good. But too many fail because of dumb actions off the field. Geno Smith had his career sidetracked after being punched by a teammate and having his jaw broken (over a money issue). Mark Sanchez found  himself more interested in going to Broadway shows and dating hot chicks than being able to throw a corner route. JaMarcus Russell was a complete mess. Matt Leinart was another guy who seemed more focused on dating than QB’ing.

I mention all of this because we need to remember that succeeding in the NFL is hard. You need a lot of things to go right in order to have the career you want. Players don’t control what goes on around them, but they do control their attitude and their actions.

Carson Wentz might not have as many air yards as some analyst prefers. He might not have great mechanics. He might throw more wobbly passes than you would ideally like.

But Wentz does have the right attitude and he is truly dedicated to the game of football.

That doesn’t guarantee success. Kevin Kolb and Nick Foles were dedicated. They did what they could to become good starting QBs, but that didn’t happen. They didn’t have the ability to play at a high level on a consistent basis. Wentz is more physically gifted than them and that gives him a big advantage.

Part of being a good QB is accepting everything that position brings with it. You are instantly a team leader. You become the face of the team. You live under a microscope, especially in a football-mad town like Philly.

Wentz gets that.

You could see his leadership skills at the Senior Bowl. You watched him spend time with 90 of the top draft prospects in the nation and he was the guy that had the presence about him. He was the alpha dog, but not in a fake or overly-macho way. It came naturally to him and you could see that with the Eagles as well. Wentz gave credit when things went well and took the blame when they went badly. He seemed comfortable and natural being the face of the team, whether in the locker room or at the podium.

He says and does the right things off the field. That may make him boring, but that’s good. You want a boring QB. Do you get the feeling that Tom Brady or Peyton Manning are great guys to hang out with? You want a QB who takes football very seriously. You want a player who will do everything he can to win.

Think about what Wentz has done this offseason. He spent his personal time with a QB tutor. In the old days, he would have been working with Eagles coaches, but that is prohibited by the CBA. Wentz found someone to help with his mechanics. He then attended all the OTAs and minicamp. Now he’s in Fargo working out with the Eagles receivers.

No stops at the Playboy Mansion.

No marketing campaigns to boost his image.

Just football.

If Wentz does fail, it won’t be for lack of effort or focus. He is doing everything he can to improve as a player and to help his team. That’s exactly what you want from the guy you made the center of your franchise.

*****

PFT has a story about Wentz launching a charity foundation.

I didn’t write this post to try and turn Wentz into a saint. He seems like a good guy, but plenty of athletes do before things come crumbling down. I hope he’s a legitimately good guy and can help some people.

For now, I’m being completely shallow and focusing on his effort to be a better football player.

_


Grymes on the Rise

Posted: July 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 79 Comments »

The CB position is not exactly set in stone. Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson are expected to compete for starting jobs. Rookie Rasul Douglas showed promise this spring and might push for a job. Rookie Sidney Jones is on the mend and could play in October or might miss the whole year. He’s a real mystery. Ron Brooks might be the nickelback.

Aaron Grymes might also win that job.

Grymes had a good summer in 2016 and played well this spring. Here’s what Fran Duffy had to say about him recently.

“This kid has done nothing but be around the football. Each and every time I wrote a practice write-up, I’m writing about some interception or some pass breakup that Aaron Grymes made at some point during team periods. I know on the last day of team periods, I’m pretty sure he had three pass breakups. … I was really, really impressed with Aaron Grymes throughout the course of the spring. Can he make an impact here and make a run at a corner job?”

We know Jim Schwartz puts a lot of value into DBs who can make plays. Knock the pass down. Pick it off. Make a play.

Paul Domowitch wrote a good piece on Grymes last month.

This spring, Grymes has picked up where he left off before he hurt his shoulder last summer. Playing mostly in the slot, he has looked impressive in the padless workouts, breaking up deep balls, sabotaging intermediate routes and just playing with an overall confidence that has impressed both defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, as well as his teammates.

“Aaron would have made the team last year if he hadn’t gotten hurt,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s really pushing to crack that starting lineup, especially at the nickel position.

“He’s bringing us a lot of quality reps in there. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a veteran. Athletic, fast. He’s done nothing but make plays this spring.”

Said Grymes: “Things have been going really well. I’m making plays. I’m just trying to be consistent every day. Eliminate mistakes. Never be satisfied with what happened yesterday or because I got a shout-out from somebody.”

Grymes has the right attitude for a player in his position. He’s got to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the team and he can’t relax because of a good play or a good practice. He’s got to stack good practices on good practices and show the team he can play consistently well.

*****

There are a couple of CBs I don’t talk much about, Mitchell White and Dwayne Gratz.

White came over from the CFL, like Grymes did last year, and is hoping to win a job. Gratz has been around the NFL, starting 13 games for JAX in 2014, but hasn’t done much in the last couple of years.

It would be great for both or either of them to seriously push for a spot. You just can’t count on that to happen. Each guy should have a feel for the scheme now that they’ve gone through OTAs. How the duo performs in Training Camp and the preseason will decide their fate.

*****

Carson Wentz and the Eagles receivers are together again…but in Fargo.

Having the QB and receiver get together like this doesn’t guarantee success. But I think it is a good sign for the young QB and so many new faces to be going the extra mile (or several thousand) to get more reps and to do everything they can to develop chemistry.

_


All the Way

Posted: July 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 19 Comments »

When  you think about the Eagles and certain positions, you can’t help but start with pass rushers. From Dennis Harrison and Claude Humphrey on the first Super Bowl team to Ken Clarke and Greg Brown in the mid-80’s to Reggie, Clyde and Seth later in the decade. Then came William Fuller and Andy Harmon. Hugh Douglas. Trent Cole. Fletcher Cox. Connor Barwin. Brandon Graham. That’s pretty amazing.

Mobile QBs are another special group. Randall Cunningham showed just how devastating a talented runner-passer can be. Donovan McNabb wasn’t as dynamic, but won postseason games. Michael Vick was here for a short time, but had flashes of greatness. We’ve only seen Carson Wentz for a season, but he showed big time potential, as a passer and runner.

One other position where the Eagles stack up against any team is return specialists. I wrote about the great ones for PE.com.

It was fun to watch clips of the players and their returns, as well as looking up all the numbers. That’s what made me put up the post about Brian Mitchell on Saturday.

The Eagles also had some outstanding returners who played here at the end of their careers.

  • Mel Gray – 1997
  • Ollie Matson – 1964, 1966
  • Irving Fryar – 1996-98
  • Herschel Walker – 1992-94
  • Brad Smith – 2013-2014

Walker did have a kickoff return go for a TD in 1994.

Smith had been a good KOR for the Bills, but the Eagles focused on him as a cover guy.

There were a couple of young players who became good returners. Quintin Demps spent a year with the Eagles. He ran a KO back for a score and averaged 25 yards per return, but his DB issues cost him his job. Demps matured after leaving the Eagles and got better as a DB and KOR. Allen Rossum was with the team for two years and then was traded to Green Bay after the Eagles signed Brian Mitchell. Rossum is one of the most productive RS in history, but did move around a lot. He played for six teams in his career and has a return TD with five different teams.

I have to mention Derrick Witherspoon as well. He was the KOR when the STs weren’t very good (’95-’97). He ran 3 kickoffs back for TDs, but never had a great average. With better blocking, he might have become a consistently good KOR.

Josh Huff averaged 28 yards per KOR for the Eagles, but it is hard to know how much of that was him and how much was the blocking. He was replaced by Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood. Barner averaged 30 yards per KOR and Smallwood ran one back for a TD. That tells you the overall STs unit was really key to Huff’s success. Huff did little in Tampa last year, but joining a team midseason is tough. We’ll find out more about him by his performance this year.

*****

I was shocked to see how little Brian Westbrook got used as a RS. He was such an important player and had his knee issues so I don’t blame Andy Reid for not exposing him to big hits in the open field. Still, it is crazy to think he only returned 39 punts in his career. Two of them went for TDs. In 2007 he ran a punt back 64 yards against Seattle. That almost won the game. He put the team at the SEA 14-yard line with 1:16 left. Unfortunately A.J. Feeley threw an INT and the Eagles lost 28-24. Winning that game would have added to the legend of Westbrook.

We’ll always have this.

_


Mitch Mania

Posted: July 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 46 Comments »

Brian Mitchell played for the Eagles for three years, 2000-2002. If I’m picking my all-time favorite Eagles, Mitch is the returner. I loved that guy.

If you’re an older fan, watch this video for a great trip down memory lane. If you’re younger, educate yourself on the greatness of Brian Mitchell.

I thought this was a great sign, but alas it was one of the few bright spots in a bad, bad day.

And I agree about Joe Buck.

Mitchell is proof that the best free agent signings aren’t always the biggest names or the biggest contracts. Find the right guys for your team. I don’t think the Andy Reid era is the same without Mitch. He brought leadership and toughness to the STs units. John Harbaugh made that group a key in the team’s success.

*****

 

MY 5 FAVORITE EAGLES WHO PLAYED MOSTLY ELSEWHERE

RB/RS Brian Mitchell
DE William Fuller
WR Irving Fryar
RB Herschel Walker
QB Jeff Garcia

  • Mitchell is covered above.
  • Fuller is a player I’ve always loved. He was tough and physical, but also a productive pass rusher. Terrific LDE from 1994-1996.
  • Fryar was the first true West Coast Offense WR for the Eagles and boy was he exactly what Jon Gruden wanted. Fryar was willing to work the middle and take big hits. He would also give out some of his own and was a very good blocker. Great player in 1996 and 1997.
  • Walker was supposed to put the Eagles into the Super Bowl in 1992, but Jerome Brown died and that team had some issues, on and off the field. Still, Walker ran for more than 1,000 yards that year and delivered some big plays over the next couple of seasons.
  • Garcia was so much fun to watch when he took over for Donovan McNabb in 2006. He brought intensity and emotion to the huddle. That wasn’t always a good thing, but he led the team to the postseason and a win over the Giants. Garcia did his part in the loss to the Saints, but the defense stunk that day and the Eagles fell 27-24.

I could have listed some all-time great players like Norm Van Brocklin or Claude Humphrey, but wasn’t able to watch them enough for them to become favorites. I wasn’t old enough to see Van Brocklin at all, but even through highlights and stories…he’s just not a player that I loved. He will be that guy for some older fans who remember him as the last QB to bring a title to Philly.

_


Blount Force

Posted: July 7th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 65 Comments »

The NFL Network recently showed a couple of Patriots games. I was casually watching the first and took notice of LeGarrette Blount. I started trying to imagine what the Eagles run game might look like with Blount as the feature runner.

Let’s start by comparing Blount to Ryan Mathews. Blount is bigger at 245 pounds (an estimate), but he and Mathews are both tough, physical runners. Mathews has better burst and is faster. He’s also a better receiver.

Blount has better feet and does a better job of reading blocks. He’s unusual for a big runner because he is patient, letting his blockers do their job. He is still is aggressive, but knows how to pause momentarily to let a hole develop.

I was surprised at how effective Blount was on outside runs. He’s not slow by any means, but won’t win a ton of races. He reads the play and goes wide if that’s where the space is. When he does commit to going wide, there isn’t any hesitation.

Blount runs more upright than you would prefer, but he’s got incredible balance and tremendous lower-body strength. That helps him to push the pile and keep from going down on first contact. He has some moments where he reminds you of Marshawn Lynch.

Duce Staley has talked about the Eagles wanting to rely on the run game more this year. The offensive line is in better shape and the overall group of RBs is better. The run game will be shaped around Blount, the team’s workhorse runner.

Blount won’t be getting 20 carries a week. The Eagles are going to mix things up with Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey. Blount will get the bulk of the carries and he will have some games with 20+ runs.

I don’t think the Eagles will have a hard time adapting to Blount. And I don’t think he’ll have a hard time adapting to the Eagles.

Blount played for Chip Kelly at Oregon. In the NFL, he’s had stops in Tampa, New England, Pittsburgh and back to NE. He had some level of success at each stop. Blount isn’t the product of a system, a good OL, or just playing for the right QB. He’s very talented.

as always…beware the background music

When the Eagles went from Shady McCoy to DeMarco Murray, it made for a very tough transition. Those players are nothing alike in terms of talent level, size or running style. That won’t be the case in going from Mathews to Blount. They are hardly twins, but have enough similarities that you can watch runs from last year and imagine Blount having success on those plays.

Fran Duffy did a lot on the run game following the win over the Vikings last year. Go watch those runs and picture Blount as the RB.

I know there is an inclination to see Doug Pederson as Andy Reid Jr., and to worry about his commitment to the run. I don’t think that is the case. In Pederson’s one year starting for the Eagles, Duce Staley had 325 carries. When he went back to Green Bay, he was on the team where Ahman Green ran for more than 1800 yards. Upon joining the Eagles as a coach, Pederson saw McCoy run for 1300 yards and 17 TDs. While in KC, they used more of a RB by committee approach, but still fed the ball to Jamaal Charles a fair amount.

I think Pederson understands the value of the run game. If Blount and Sproles can stay healthy, I expect Pederson to keep finding touches for them.

The one question I do have with Blount is if he can become part of the passing game. In NE, he was in on run plays. They were so good they could get away with that. The Eagles aren’t at that level. The coaches said encouraging things about Blount as a receive this spring, but he’s only got 46 career catches. He doesn’t need to be Sproles, but Blount needs to catch a pass here and there to help keep defenses honest.

_