Tuesday Quick Update

Posted: January 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 76 Comments »

Today was insane. The weigh-in was from 830am-1030am. Then Jimmy Bama and I went over to Saucy Q BBQ for lunch. The North practiced from 12:15 to 2:15. Then we hopped in a car and drove over to Fairhope Stadium for the South practice from 2:30-4:30. We got back to Mobile at 6pm and went straight to Media Night, which just ended at 8pm CST.

I have a ton of notes and stories, but need time to write them.

Tyler Aston was kind enough to put together some of his thoughts on the weigh-in. Good stuff from him.

Here are some quick highlights from today.

Sheil Kapadia, me, Jimmy Bama and Eliot-Shorr Parks.

I’ll share this story in the next post.

I’ll get my posts up as soon as I can. Just wanted to get something up quickly so I can get back to writing.

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Hot For Hundley?

Posted: January 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 434 Comments »

Charlie Campbell from Walter Football posted this nugget.

For months, there has been speculation that Philadelphia wants to trade to get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and reunite him with Chip Kelly. However, there are rumors going around that the Eagles love UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. From an athletic skill set perspective, it makes all the sense in the world, as Hundley is a great athlete with mobility to hurt defenses with his feet. He also has a strong enough arm to disrupt the ball throughout the field. The rumor mill is saying that the Eagles are hot for Hundley and would target him much earlier than other teams, as in he could be in play for their first- or second-round pick.

I have no idea if this is true. It is completely logical because all 32 teams love Hundley’s size, athleticism and physical potential. When you break down his play, things change. Those that like Hundley focus on the positives. Others see a mess on the field and want nothing to do with him. They see a better version of Logan Thomas.

I am still not sure what to make of Hundley. He has the potential to be a very good NFL starter, but you have no idea if he’ll ever come close to realizing that potential. The mental part of the game is his biggest weakness…and we’re talking about college football. Things get much harder in the NFL. Interviews are going to be critical for him. Hundley is going to have to sell some team that he can learn and will work his butt off to become a good NFL QB.

If you could draft him with a mid-round pick, Hundley would be a no-brainer (which would be fine even if he turned out to be a no-brainer). The problem is that a guy with his physical potential won’t last that long. EJ Manuel wasn’t nearly as good as Hundley and went in the mid-1st. I doubt he makes it out of the 2nd round, if he falls that far.

* * * * *

I asked someone with good league connections last night about Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. This guy feels Mariota goes first overall, but has no idea on Winston.

You can argue for which guy should go first based on talent and performance. Winston is much more NFL ready. However, character is a huge issue and Winston’s character is either highly questionable or flat out awful. Is that the kid you want to make the center of your billion dollar organization? Jimbo Fisher couldn’t wait to get him out of Tallahassee.

There was some recent speculation about Mariota falling to the mid-1st, but I just can’t see that happening. He’s not Geno Smith.

* * * * *

No good rumors about the Eagles and front office candidates.

I assume Chip Kelly will be here in Mobile. He’s been the past 2 years. Will be interesting to see who he chats up.

* * * * *

I had an interesting discussion on Nate Allen with some folks on Twitter last night. I said some good things about Clayton Geathers from UCF and someone pointed out that sounded like what I wrote about Nate in January of 2010. And he was right. I loved Nate Allen coming out of USF. I thought he was going to be a good starting FS for years. I was ecstatic when the Eagles drafted him.

Nate had a solid rookie year, but then got hurt late in 2010. That injury affected him in 2011, as did playing for lesser coaches and in the Wide-9. He really struggled in 2012 before bouncing back in 2013. The new coaches and new scheme helped him out. I hoped he would take another step forward in 2014. That did not happen.

Some people felt any talk of injuries, scheme and coaches were me simply making excuses for Nate. Uh, no. Go watch his tape from the 2010 season. You will see a guy playing with confidence and showing a kind of aggression we haven’t seen since. The guy we see on the field now isn’t the same player.

There is value in understanding why Nate failed. He was never on his way to being Dawk, Pt. 2, but there is no question that without his injury he would be a different guy today. That and the Wide-9 gave him some bad habits and changed the way he played.

Jaiquawn Jarrett never showed potential. He was a terrible pick. Nate showed a lot of promise as a rookie and then things changed. There is a huge difference. It is important to figure out what happened to help with evaluating players going forward. You need to learn from your mistakes.

I thought Danny Watkins was going to be a good player. Age aside, I loved the guy as a prospect. He was good on tape and at the Senior Bowl. Turned out he didn’t have the commitment that football requires. Jarrett was a terrific college player, but just couldn’t adjust to the NFL. He struggled with getting bigger and stronger. He never showed the kind of confidence that he had at Temple. Jarrett owned the field in college. He played with an attitude. He looked lost and unsure of himself when he was with the Eagles.

You don’t want the draft to be a pure guessing game. You want to figure out why things work and why they didn’t.

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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.