Posted: May 11th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 39 Comments »
You have rookie camp where the media can’t watch the practices and the 1st round pick is a RT, the 2nd rounder a TE, and the 3rd rounder a DE/DT tweener. So guess who gets all the attention? That’s right…the 4th round QB, Mr. Matt Barkley.
The good news is that Barkley is ready for this. He was the starting QB at Mater Dei for 4 years. That’s a huge deal in the high school football world. He then went to USC and became the first true Freshman to start his first game. Barkley started all 4 years in one of the most high profile jobs in the college football world. He might look like a young man, but he’s not. That is a veteran QB who knows how to handle the media. Seemingly, even the Philly media.
He was asked a variety of questions. Barkley handled them all well. One writer was trying to get Barkley to talk about the QB’s responsibilities in the Chip Kelly offense, hoping Barkley might share some secrets. Barkley told the guy he couldn’t get into specifics and gave a generic answer. Another writer asked if the offense looked the same as the one he saw Kelly run at Oregon, again looking for some inside info. Barkley deflected that and said the offense was a bit of this and a bit of that.
The average person might not see this as a big deal, but I think there is something to it. One of the big transitions most players go through when they come to the NFL is dealing with a bigger and more aggressive media. You are no longer a college kid who the media should give a break to. You are now a spoiled pro athlete that is fair game for intense scrutiny. Ryan Leaf was very popular at Washington State. He carried that team on his back to the Rose Bowl. He was a great college player and had some personality. He was a hero in college. Leaf got to the NFL and suddenly couldn’t win. The questions went from positive to negative and he couldn’t handle it. And that was just San Diego, not Philly, New York, or Boston.
What I saw and heard from Barkley on Friday was a player who is ready for the big time from a mental and emotional standpoint. Check out a few more quotes.
In regard to Michael Vick and Nick Foles:
“You come in as a teammate to them, not as a fan,” Barkley said. “You come in as someone who is ready to compete against them, at the same time . . . It’s going to be good competition for all of us, competing against each other, just making each other better.”
Asked about sliding in the draft:
“The fact is that I’m here, and I have a shot to play on the field this year.”
Here is the whole video.
You can tell that Barkley has a chip on his shoulder, but it seems to be in a good way. He’s not bitter and angry. He’s driven. Only time will really tell, but he came across as a player who is genuinely happy to be playing for the Eagles and Chip Kelly. He seems to get that going a couple of rounds later than expected is only a big deal if he lets it be a big deal. Barkley’s career won’t be defined by when he was picked, but rather by how he plays.
Let’s talk about his slide for a minute. I’ve been thinking about this more and more. The perception feels like “Barkley was there…he was too good to pass up…take him”. That’s not the deal at all.
Howie Roseman explained after the draft that the Eagles did try to trade up into the late 3rd round to get Barkley. The Eagles had him rated as a Top 50 player. He was probably in the 41-50 range or else they would have said “we had him rated as a Top 40 player”. The Eagles felt like he would probably go in the early to mid-2nd round. They had a chance to take him at pick 67, but instead went with DL Bennie Logan. That means the Eagles clearly had a higher grade on Logan. If the grades were close, you always take the QB. I would guess Logan was rated maybe 10 spots higher. That’s kinda interesting in and of itself.
I’m sure passing on Barkley at 67 wasn’t easy, but the Eagles stayed true to the board. They saw Barkley continue to sit there for the taking. I’m sure Roseman would have loved to deal into the middle 3rd to get him, but that would have eaten up serious resources. There were too many holes to fill to make a deal like that. Once it got to be late in the 3rd round, the Eagles saw that they could afford to move up and Howie started really working the phones. The problem is that those teams all had players they wanted and weren’t moving back.
Friday’s action came to a close. Howie started talking to teams about moving up on Saturday morning. He made plans with Jacksonville and had a backup plan with KC. Howie knew he had to get in front of the Raiders if he really wanted Barkley, which he did. The Eagles traded with the Jags and Barkley became an Eagle.
Another key part of this is that the Eagles had checked Barkley out extensively. Kelly saw him up close for 4 years. Roseman scouted him in person on annual trips to USC. He was high on Barkley last year, had Matt come out. The Eagles met with Barkley at the Combine and said he had a great interview. Then they sent QB coach Bill Lazor to USC to work him out.
This doesn’t mean Barkley is a Top 10 player the Eagles got and he’s a sure-fire star. I do think it is important to note the Eagles level of interest in Matt prior to the draft. Too often when we talk about a value pick it feels like the equivalent of going to the grocery store to buy a 12-pack of PBR and seeing a pack of pork chops that are on sale cheap. You had no intention of getting them, but it was just too good a deal not to take. This is more like going to the store and wanting the chops, but thinking you simply couldn’t afford them. You then go see that a pack of chops is still there and the price fits your budget. Now you’ve got PBR and pork chops (we call that Christmas in my family).
None of this erases the fact that Barkley did fall in the draft and that not all NFL teams are sold on him. Barkley could prove to be the Eagles starting QB or he could just be a career backup. This is all up to him.
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Tim McManus wrote a piece on Barkley after speaking with Trent Dilfer. This goes back a few days, but is absolutely worth checking out.
Dilfer is very high on Barkley. Dilfer was also very high on Foles last year. He actually thought Nick should have been a 1st round pick. I didn’t see that out of Foles, but he did play better than I expected last year.
Dilfer said some interesting things about Barkley. One stood out.
“There is not a lot of difference between Matt Barkley and Eli Manning in their senior film,” said Dilfer. “In fact, I would argue that Matt’s college film is slightly better than Eli’s film.”
Uh….no way. Not even close. I had Eli Manning rated as the #1 player in 2004. I had Barkley rated as a 3rd round player this year. Eli looked like a franchise QB. There were no major holes in his game. Trent is certainly a smart guy and welcome to his opinion, but that’s a really crazy statement to me.
I hope Dilfer is right with the comparison, in terms of how the NFL careers worked out.
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Cecil Lammey of FootballGuys.com has up a piece on Barkley and the Kelly offense. I think you’ll like his conclusion.
“All of these traits – deep accuracy, mobility, intelligence, and quick decisions- are PERFECT for this system.”
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PE.com has a piece on Gocong with a couple of quotes. I’d love to see him on the move so we could get a feel for what kind of shape he’s in. The good news is that his Achilles injury was last summer. He’s had plenty of time to rehab it and get ready for 2013.
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Jimmy Bama and I did a new show. We talked about Matt Barkley, Chris Gocong, SAM, Felix Jones, and some other things. Part of the show was about Jimmy’s bizarre feet. My apologies for that.
Posted: May 11th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 33 Comments »
Day 1 of rookie camp is in the books and my sources tell me all the rookies looked great and should be first ballot Hall of Famers. That’s great news, of course. I worried that David King might not make it until his third or fourth try.
So what do we really know? Not much. PE.com has up a slew of videos. 2 of them show the players in action, although that is probably a generous description. Clearly Chip Kelly only let limited footage out. You can’t really see much, beyond Bennie Logan dominating a trash can.
As I mentioned earlier, the first 3 days aren’t a period for evaluation. This is an introduction. Rookies get there first taste of NFL practice. The one thing almost all of them said was that things moved even faster than they expected. Part of that is life in the NFL, part is life with Chip Kelly. NFL practices are up tempo. Kelly’s are really up tempo.
The real test for the rookies is going to be Monday, when they get to practice with the whole team.
No word on any of the tryout guys. Chris Gocong was on the field for the first time since last summer. We didn’t get to see him in action and I’ve not heard anything. Gocong is worth discussing again. The Eagles drafted him in 2006. Gocong played DE at Cal-Poly and the Eagles were going to make him a SAM. Gocong had the frame to set the edge. He had a great motor and would chase plays all over the field. He was a good pass rusher in college, but that was based on speed/effort more than skill. The one thing he needed to do was develop cover skills.
Gocong started for 2 years and was an ascending player heading into 2009. That’s when things got weird. He started the season pretty well. He then got hurt and missed a game. Moise Fokou took his spot. The next week Gocong came back and Sean McDermott tried him at MLB. That was just an odd move and major failure. Gocong went back to SAM and then got benched late in the year when McDermott decided he wanted a 230-pound player that could move and cover better. Oops. The defense shut down SF with Fokou, but the last 3 games of the year weren’t so good. Teams averaged 28 points per game in those contests. The D had played better with Gocong.
Gocong played ILB, WLB, and SAM in his 2 years with the Browns. He was more of a playmaker for them. He would be most natural at SAM with the Eagles. Gocong has never had the chance to play OLB in the 3-4, which would seem to be his best fit. I hope he’s able to impress the coaches and get a full roster spot. That wouldn’t mean he was on the final team, but would give him a chance to prove himself this summer and in the preseason.
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Jordan Poyer didn’t run well at the Combine. Due to that, some think he might be more of a nickel back than an outside corner. I think the Eagles drafted him with the intention of playing him outside. If he is overwhelmed there, they can move him to the slot and let him compete with Brandon Boykin. Or Poyer could move to FS.
I’ve written a couple of times about how Bill Davis used big DBs in Arizona. He turned Matt Ware into a good role player. Davis was creative with Antrel Rolle and found a good role for him. Poyer isn’t as big as him, but Davis will find a way to use a player he likes. This very much fits into Chip Kelly’s disdain for generic labels. If Poyer can play, the Eagles will find a way to get him on the field.
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Off topic, but a bit interesting. Darnell Dockett recently said that if Ray Horton had stayed in Arizona, Dockett would have requested a trade. He felt that Horton asked him to play too conservative a role and that took away his ability to make plays. Ray Horton is a good coach, but I have felt the hype with him is a bit much. In 2011, Arizona was 18th in Yds, 17th in Pts. In 2012, they were 12th in Yds, 17th in Pts. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but Horton is a guy that has been labeled as a defensive guru when that is very much up for debate.
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Someone asked if there would be any problem with Vinny Curry playing LB while wearing #75. Not that I know of. The NFL is picky with numbers, but the Eagles could get around that if they simply listed Curry on the roster as a DE/LB.
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Baloophi asked this in the previous comments section:
“If Kenny Tate performs well and earns a spot, will his supporters refer to themselves as taters?”
The answer is YES!!!
For those who don’t know, the primary section on the Eagles Message Board is called TATE (Talk about the Eagles). The people who post there a lot are called TATErs, and it has a negative connotation. I always considered myself a TATEr and I’ll stick up for my many brothers and sisters.
The real controversy is Tate. He is known as Kenny, but prefers to be called Kenneth. Why on earth would anyone choose Kenneth over Kenny? All I can say is this…what’s the frequency?
(how’s that for an obscure reference?)
Posted: May 10th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 60 Comments »
The Eagles have a rookie camp taking place Friday through Sunday. Then on Monday, there are some full team OTAs. This is a bit different from past seasons. Normally the Eagles first team activity was a post-draft mini-camp for the whole team. This year the Eagles had a pre-draft camp since there was a coaching change so this camp is just for rookies.
The rookie camp isn’t a time for evaluation. This is more a time of letting the young guys get their feet wet. We can’t get excited about anyone looking great or get down about anyone looking lost.
Since veterans won’t be here, the Eagles need some extra bodies so that there are enough players for running drills. The team is having some players in for a tryout. Most are rookie free agents, but one is LB Chris Gocong. I’m sure you remember that Gocong was drafted by the Eagles in 2006. He started at SAM from 2007-2009. He was traded after 2009 to Cleveland. Gocong played well for them, but tore his achilles last year and missed the 2012 season. He would be a good fit as backup SAM. He can rush and cover. The Eagles will want to see how he moves around and if he looks like he’ll be ready by this summer.
Here is the full list of players. Here are the most interesting tryout names to me:
RB Montel Harris – Temple
OL Nic Purcell – Golden West CC
ILB Matt Evans – New Hampshire
CB Anthony Boyles – Idaho State
SS Kenny Tate – Maryland
FS Dontra Peters – New Hampshire
Harris was productive at Boston College for 3 years before being kicked off the team and transferring to Temple. Matt Waldman wrote a very interesting report on Harris and is very high on him.
Purcell is a guy I wrote a bit about.
Evans (6-0, 227) was a tackling machine for UNH. He finished his career with 460 tackles. Evans won the Buck Buchanan Award in 2011 as the nation’s top I-AA defensive player. He had 3 INTs, 3 FFs, 92 solo tackles, and 7.5 TFLs. He also ran 2 of the INTs back for TDs. Some wonder about his size for ILB. Legit concern. He was tough/strong/physical enough in college, but the NFL is a whole other level.
Boyles started out at Washington and graduated from there in 3 years. He transferred to ISU. Boyles has played CB and WR. He is 6-3, 203 and has potential as a physical, press corner.
Tate was a major star a few years back. Injuries ruined his career at Maryland. He is huge at 6-4, 225. If he can ever stay healthy, he’s got NFL potential.
Peters played CB for UNH as a Senior, after spending his first 3 years on offense. He has good size at 6-0, 201. Peters had 4 INTs this year and has plenty of KOR experience. The Eagles are looking at Peters as a Safety. He lacks ideal speed.
While I said this isn’t a time for evaluation, that is true for draft picks. The tryout players are absolutely under pressure to show they have NFL ability and potential. These guys don’t need to look polished. They need to show that they are worthy of signing and having as part of the roster battles.
There are some interesting guys that are under contract who will be working out. Guys like TE/H-back Derek Carrier, OL Matt Reynolds, WR Ifeanyi Momah, and BJ Cunningham all have a legit chance to make the roster this year. These players must look good in order to get the coaches attention and build some momentum heading into the OTAs. All except Momah were here last year for at least part of the season. They won’t have any advantages in terms of knowing the schemes/systems, but have had some exposure to NFL practices. The Eagles gave Momah an $85K bonus so they expect him to look good and challenge for a spot.
* * * * *
Matt Barkley and GJ Kinne will be the only 2 QBs at the camp. Kinne would love to play well enough that the Eagles go from looking at him as a camp body to someone with actual NFL potential.
Barkley is going to be very interesting. He is a polished, veteran QB (for a college player). He has played in a pro style type of system. There is every chance in the world that Barkley could actually be impressive. That said, he is still a rookie. You cannot count on him going out there and playing well. He won’t know the system. He won’t have any chemistry with the receivers.
PE.com will have some coverage on Friday. It is going to be fun to see some clips of Barkley and then trying to make way too much out of it.
Posted: May 8th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 88 Comments »
Forget about the D-line. Forget about the linebackers. Forget about the secondary. The Eagles defense, more than anything else, needs stability.
The 2008 Eagles defense finished Top 5 in almost every major category. That group was largely homegrown.
DL; Juqua Thomas, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Trent Cole
LB: Chris Gocong, Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan
S: Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell
CB; Sheldon Brown, Asante Samuel
Things looked pretty good. Until the 2009 offseason. That’s when Jim Johnson died of cancer and was replaced by Sean McDermott.
While McDermott had been mentored by Johnson, Sean had his own ideas that he wanted to incorporate. In his mind, he was taking something good and making it better. In retrospect, he was taking something good and changing it when it really wasn’t needed.
One of the big problems is that McDermott wasn’t as good of a teacher. Not only did he switch from some of JJ’s ideas, but McDermott failed to do a good job with teaching them. Think about the young players under McDermott and how they either flatlined or flat out regressed in 2009.
S Quintin Demps – played as a rookie in 2008 and showed promise, but lost his job in 2009
LB Akeem Jordan – played very well down the stretch in 2008, but struggled in 2009
LB Chris Gocong – looked like good young SAM in 2008 and was being phased out in 2009
MLB Joe Mays – got a chance to play in 2009 and looked awful
DT Brodrick Bunkley – played very well for parts of 2008, but regressed in 2009
DE Chris Clemons – showed flashes in 2008, but failed to build on them
S Macho Harris – rookie who played a lot in 2009, but failed to develop
Victor Abiamiri and Stewart Bradley were hurt and struggled solely for those reasons.
McDermott wasn’t dealing with ideal circumstance since he took over in the spring/summer, but that is still a lot of players showing no growth or heading the wrong way. I think McDermott made things overly difficult by trying to make changes. That was his first chance to run a defense and he was excited to implement his own ideas. I get that. But…part of being a smart coach is knowing when to leave things as is. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The defense wasn’t terrible (19th in Pts, 12th in Yds), but took a huge step back from 2008. McDermott was hurt by the loss of Brian Dawkins and Bradley, but Sean’s failure to find or develop replacements is on him. McDermott didn’t have to replace them with stars. He failed to have even adequate players to fill those jobs.
The 2010 defense posted similar numbers, but McDermott did a much better job with young players (Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Keenan Clayton, Kurt Coleman, Jamar Chaney). Unfortunately the Red Zone defense was historically bad and the overall defense regressed as the season went along so Andy Reid decided to make a change.
The 2008 defense was built around being physical. McDermott wanted more speed and coverage ability. Both groups asked the DTs to play a 2-gap style that ate up blockers and kept pressure off the back seven in the run game.
2011 saw the arrival of Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn and the Wide-9. This meant a 1-gap system where players would attack up the field and the DBs would need to be more active vs the run. Some players loved the change, but plenty of others struggled in the new system. The lockout put the coaches in a tough situation and we hoped 2012 would bring different results. Oops.
The defense was erratic and that led to Castillo’s firing at the bye week. The defense fell apart after that and played awful as Todd Bowles tried to make some changes to the secondary and how they played. Eventually Washburn was fired and the Wide-9 was scrapped.
I haven’t even gotten into all of the assistant coaches who the Eagles have had in recent years. I think the list would be longer than the number of drummers in Spinal Tap. This may not seem critical, but it is a big deal. Each coach teaches a bit differently. Players go from learning one way to another to another. That absolutely affects their performance. It takes time to perfect a way of doing things. When you have multiple teachers, you’re constantly learning and never perfecting.
And now Chip Kelly comes in with a new scheme and new staff. The only thing I ask is that Kelly give it 3 full years. Give the coaches time to develop the players and adjust the system. Give the players a chance to figure things out. Give the personnel staff time to find players for the system. Give it a real chance.
All the changes from 2008-2012 made it impossible for the organization to have a truly good defense. Buddy Ryan got here in 1986. He ran the defense until he was fired and Bud Carson took over in 1991. Carson tinkered with the scheme, but left it mostly the same. That allowed the 1991 Eagles to be one of the all-time great units. Ray Rhodes took over in 1995 and put in a more conservative system, but one that allowed holdover players like Andy Harmon, William Fuller, William Thomas, Bill Romanowski and Mike Zordich to still play at a high level. Jim Johnson took over in 1999 and his system brought out the best in holdovers like Hugh Douglas, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, and of course Brian Dawkins.
From 1986-2008 the Eagles had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Heck, they might have the most overall sacks in that period. They ran an attacking 4-3 that punished QBs and made lots of big plays. There were systematic adjustments when the coaches changed, but the changes always seemed to make sense and bring out the best in the existing players. Since then, chaos has reigned.
One reason I do have a bit of optimism is that the new coaches are veterans. McDermott was a first time DC. Castillo was new to defense in the NFL. Bowles was a first time DC and mid-season change. Bill Davis takes over now with a long NFL history and 4 years of DC experience. His numbers aren’t good, but he does know how things work and what the NFL is like. Jerry Azzinaro is a long time DL coach. Rick Minter is new to the NFL, but has been a head coach, DC, and LBs coach in college. Bill McGovern is new to the NFL, but has been a DC and LBs coach in college. John Lovett has a year of NFL experience, but is mostly a college guy. He’ll be working with Toddy Lyght, a former NFL player.
Some of you may wonder if the defensive coaches lack of NFL experience is a major issue. No. Jimmy Johnson’s great staff in Dallas had little to no NFL experience. The Steel Curtain was run by Bud Carson, who came there from Georgia Tech. The 1992 Steelers hired our own Bill Davis and Marvin Lewis straight from college. The 1999 Ravens, run by Marvin Lewis, hired Mike Smith, Rex Ryan, and Donnie Henderson straight out of college. Ryan had a bit of NFL experience working under Buddy in the mid-90′s. You need to hire the right guys. Experience is nice, but not a must.
The coaches may not be NFL experts, but they know defense and they know how to teach. Another important aspect of the staff is that they have some ties to each other. That should help them get along and lead to a more cohesive staff. There will be none of Washburn’s “Juanita” crap this year. It will be easier for the players to respect and follow the staff if they see a group of coaches that works well together and gets along.
Stability. Who in the world ever thought that would be something a defense needed?
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The Eagles took a look at RB Felix Jones on Tuesday.
Posted: May 7th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 55 Comments »
The big news that came out today is that LG Evan Mathis is having minor surgery to clean up his ankle. He will miss the upcoming mini-camp and might be out until Training Camp. He’s expected to make a full recovery.
On its own, this isn’t a big deal. But as Jimmy Bama pointed out on Twitter, this now means the Eagles OL is 4 injured guys and a rookie. That sounds depressing. The good news is that Jason Peters seems to be all the way back from his injury. Todd Herremans was a full participant in the pre-draft camp and seems to be okay. Mathis participated in the pre-draft camp so his ankle was functional. Jason Kelce is actually the biggest question mark at this point.
Mathis absence will provide a great opportunity for Danny Watkins. There was a bizarre post on Philly.com this weekend that questioned whether Watkins would get cut and go to the CFL. It was pure speculation, but way off base even for that. Watkins hasn’t turned into the high quality starter the Eagles hoped for, but he’s far getting cut. Chip Kelly and Jeff Stoutland will want to see him up close this summer. Watkins wouldn’t be cut before September. And if he is let go, I tend to think some other NFL team would claim him and see if they couldn’t turn his career around. Watkins had a very good career at Baylor and showed serious potential in 2011.
I think Watkins would have to look awful this summer to get cut. You need backup offensive linemen. Watkins has experience, size, strength, and ability. He could be a good backup.
I’m not ready to give up on Watkins turning into a quality starter. He had 2 huge issues in the past. First, he didn’t take well to Howard Mudd’s coaching style. That brought out the worst in Watkins. Second, Danny is a much, much better run blocker than pass blocker. So naturally he didn’t thrive when pass blocking 40 times a game. If Kelly does run the ball as much as we expect, that will allow Danny to do something he’s good at and should help build up his confidence.
Danny has plenty of skeptics and he might end up failing, but we’ve seen plenty of times over the years when a coaching change completely turned a player’s career around. Look at what Pete Carroll did for Red Bryant. Red went from role player to impact run defender. Ask Alex Smith if Jim Harbaugh was good for him. Smith became a good starter and winning QB for the first time in his career. Go back in Eagles history and Jermane Mayberry went from underachieving former 1st rounder under Ray Rhodes to very good RG under Andy Reid.
We really don’t know who the backup OL will be this year. It looks like Dennis Kelly will be the primary backup OT and Dallas Reynolds the backup C. Nate Menkin and Julian Vandervelde could be backups at OG. UDFA Matt Austin is more of a longshot, but will get his chance. There are other guys in the mix and as Kelly likes to say, he’ll give jobs to the players who play the best. There will be no favorites. Any of these guys can win a job or roster spot.
I know it may seem cheesy, but I really like the fact that all the players have a clean slate with Kelly. The fun part will be seeing who takes advantage of it.
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Jimmy put together an excellent post on Jordan Poyer. He added some great stuff on Twitter. Poyer went to high school in Astoria, OR, which is where the Goonies were. Poyer was -6 when that took place so he’s not one of the Goonies. I think that nugget officially makes Jimmy the bizarro version of AC Viking.
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NFL Gimpy posted some good reflections on the draft in his new MAQB column. He focused on how money changed the positions that teams went for in the Top 10. Really interesting stuff.
I posted some draft nuggets the other day. Just general observations.