Posted: February 27th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »
Yesterday the focus was on offense, but a lot of the offseason focus is on fixing the defense. We mostly talk about the immediate future, but there is also a need to think long term.
In my latest BGN piece I wrote about the need to build a LB corps. You need 4 good starters, but you also need depth. LBs are the heart and soul of the 3-4. Invest in LBs every year to build up a group that is deep and talented. A good 3-4 defense that has sustained success will have a lot of good LBs. They will come and go due to injuries, age and contract issues. You can’t just find a couple and stop there. It is an ongoing process. There will be some bad signings and bad picks, but don’t stop investing in the LB corps. After all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
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Why don’t you write about Jordan Matthews? I don’t know him as well as I should. I didn’t see much Vandy this year and simply haven’t had a chance to focus on him. He was solid at the Senior Bowl, but didn’t jump out at me as a compelling player. The biggest knock on Matthews is that he has too many drops. Watch a game and he’ll put the ball on the ground a couple of times. I’m trying to figure out what to make of that. Matthews did have a great career and then had a terrific performance at the Combine. He is a quality WR prospect.
Should the Eagles have interest in Safety Thomas DeCoud if the Falcons do cut him? The short answer is…maybe. I need to do some research on the guy. I liked him coming out of Cal. He played well in 2012 for the Falcons. So why is he being cut? You always wonder what teams are thinking when they let go of a functional (or better) starter.
Did the Eagles overrate the guys they re-signed/are about to re-sign? Fair question. I don’t think so. Peters is a unique talent. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Kelce is arguably the most athletic C in the league. He still needs to improve his overall game, but he is a very good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. I don’t think that’s up for debate. Riley Cooper had a breakout season. The only way you could be critical of re-signing him would be if the Eagles overpay. We haven’t heard any details, but I’m confident the team wouldn’t aggressively make a move if the value wasn’t right. Jeremy Maclin is probably going to get a 1-year deal so that contract won’t be an issue.
With Mac, Coop and DJax together, who will play in the slot most of the time? Tough question. First, understand that Kelly will move all 3 around. Both DJax and Coop played some in the slot this year. Kelly spreads the field a lot so the slot receiver isn’t playing as much in traffic as in other offenses. There is still room to work with. Coop could be the slot guy if the team wants size. Mac would make sense because of his quickness and overall athleticism. My guess would be Mac, but that is just a guess.
If the Boys cut DeMarcus Ware, should the Eagles have interest? Really tough question. He’s going to turn 32 in July. He missed 3 games this year and struggled with injuries for most of the season. You have to understand you wouldn’t be getting the Ware who terrorized the Eagles for so many years. You’d be getting an older, beaten down version. I lean toward no, but if the price was reasonable there is part of me that wonders if Kelly’s sports science stuff could help him.
Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 78 Comments »
The Eagles decided not to wait until free agency began to make a splash. Today they extended the contract of LT Jason Peters, adding 5 years and a reported $51.3M. Les Bowen lists the guaranteed money as $19.55M, most of which will come in the next 2 years. Les also wrote about the complexity of the deal.
One obstacle Vincent Taylor faced when Jason Peters’ agent sat down to talk to Eagles general manager Howie Roseman about a contract extension was the lack of comparable deals.
“That was one of the biggest hurdles, getting over,” Taylor said Wednesday, after the Eagles announced a five-year extension with their six-time Pro Bowl left tackle, which will pay $51.3 million if Peters is still an Eagle in 2018 (and the pact isn’t renegotiated.) Peters, 32, will be 36 in 2018. About $19.55 million is guaranteed, most of that money in the next two seasons. “Howie will tell you. Had nothing to work off of. Talked to the NFLPA today, they said that’s the highest guarantee for any o-lineman at 32 years old or above. We just had to look at it almost like the pink elephant — what is it worth to you? It may not be worth much to the next person, but what is it worth to you? And they felt like, hey, that’s what he’s worth to us, and we settled.”
This situation worked well for both sides. The Eagles really wanted to keep Peters. And Jason really wanted to stay. I wasn’t sure how the Eagles would feel about Peters. He did make the Pro Bowl this year, but didn’t play at the same level he did in 2011. Would they view him as a declining player or someone that did well despite coming off a significant achilles injury. Obviously they went with the latter option.
This is a really interesting move because it gives the Eagles stability at the OT position for the near future. Peters might not play all 5 years, but could be here for at least the next 3. Lane Johnson is the RT for the next few years. Allen Barbre is the short term answer as the backup OT. The Eagles do need a young player to develop for the future, but they don’t have to go get that player this year. Bowen did ask Howie Roseman what the team would do if the highest rated player on the board at 22 is an OT. Roseman didn’t flinch and said the Eagles would take the OT. As the Eagles found out in 2012, you do need good backup OTs. Ideally the team would find a mid-round OT who could also play OG if needed.
The Peters deal is not the only news of the day.
Mosher also reports the Eagles are making progress with Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin, the fifth-year receiver, is set to become a free agent on March 8 but the league source said both sides are “talking and making progress.” Still, the deal isn’t done and Maclin could still elect to test free agency before making his decision.
Jeff McLane says the Eagles are working on an extension with Jason Kelce as well as the Cooper and Peters deals.
The Eagles are taking care of in-house business and are close to completing contracts with wide receiver Riley Cooper and center Jason Kelce, according to NFL sources.
The Kelce multiyear extension could be announced as early as Thursday morning, followed by an afternoon news conference. Cooper, who is slated to become a free agent on March 11, is also expected to receive a multiyear deal that may be announced this week.
My take on all of this…great news.
Peters is still a very good LT. He’s also a key leader for the team. Jason Kelce is one of the best young Centers in the league and is another important leader. Keeping them is also crucial because Chip Kelly needs a top OL for his offense to work.
As to the WRs, keeping both Mac and Coop is ideal. This gives the Eagles 3 starting caliber talents. If someone gets hurt, the other 2 can keep the offense rolling at a high level. Mac and DeSean Jackson have the speed to stretch the defense. Cooper isn’t as fast, but proved to be a good downfield receiver this year. He used his size and did a great job of tracking deep balls.
Kelly’s offense doesn’t use the slot receiver in a standard way. I don’t think a trio of DJax, Mac and Coop would have functioned all that well in Andy Reid’s offense. Kelly uses his receivers differently so the slot guy doesn’t play in traffic and just work the middle of the field. Kelly had Coop and DJax play outside and inside last year.
Maclin isn’t a sure thing to re-sign, but it certainly sounds hopeful. He’s likely settling for a short term deal so this isn’t going to solve the position long term. The Eagles could still add a WR in the draft. I’d prefer a speedy guy with return skills. The Eagles still have some big guys in Arrelious Benn and Brad Smith to challenge for roster spots.
I didn’t expect a Wednesday in late February to be so cool. Rather than throwing money at free agents from other teams, I’m glad the Eagles are taking this route. Keep your best players together as long as you can (and as long as they play at high level).
Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 105 Comments »
The Eagles could use an OLB or two. On Monday they had a chance to see some pretty good ones.
Khalil Mack (6-3, 251) put on a show and looked like a high pick. I don’t think the Eagles would have a chance to move up for him without paying a ridiculously high price and as good as Mack is, I don’t think he’s that level of “Must Have Him” player. He ran 4.65 and had a 40-inch vertical jump. That’s the kind of speed and explosion you want at OLB, especially in the 3-4. Mack was good, but a bit sloppy in the drills. Does he go before Jadeveon Clowney? Never thought I’d seriously ask that question.
Anthony Barr had a very good workout. He measured in at 6-5, 255, which is bigger than I expected. I’m sure Chip Kelly is in love with that frame. Barr almost matched Mack in the 40, running a 4.66. He only posted 34.5 in the VJ. Barr had an outstanding 3-cone time of 6.82. That is great agility for a tall, longer player. That agility shows up on tape as you see him bend and dip by OL when he’s pass rushing. Barr could be a Top 5 pick or he could slide to pick 15. I don’t think he gets anywhere close to 22. The Eagles could move up for him, depending upon how far he falls. If Barr makes it outside the Top 10, the price might become reasonable. The question is whether he’s worth giving up a 2nd round pick (possibly more) to get.
At this point, I think both Mack and Barr will be long gone.
One of my personal favorites, Jeremiah Attaochu, wasn’t able to perform. Hopefully he’s back to 100 percent for his Pro Day. The Eagles did get to study him closely at the Senior Bowl so there isn’t as much mystery with him.
Marcus Smith weighed in at 251, which is 7 pounds lighter than the Senior Bowl. Some guys do this so they will be faster. He ran 4.68, which is a good time. He had a 35-inch VJ, which is good. The one area where Smith struggled was the 3-cone. He came in at 7.48. That needs to be down closer to 7.00-7.15. I didn’t get to see his on-field workouts yet, but I’m still a fan of his.
Chris Smith from Arkansas is shorter than what Kelly wants at just 6-1, but he has 34-inch arms and that helps to make up for the lack of height. Chris had a similar workout to Marcus. He ran 4.71 and had a VJ of 37 inches. His 3-cone time was 7.55, which isn’t good for an edge rusher.
Dee Ford chose not to work out. He did measure in at 6-2, 252, which is up 9 pounds from the Senior Bowl. I’m disappointed that he didn’t workout. Makes you wonder if that added weight was the right kind.
I was surprised with the numbers Adrian Hubbard put up. He measured in at 6-6, 257 and ran a 4.69. That’s faster than I would have guessed for him. He had a VJ of 38.5, showing way more explosion than I expected. He wasn’t explosive on tape. I definitely need to watch more of him.
Kyle Van Noy came in at 6-3, 243. He ran 4.71, which isn’t great for someone at that weight. His VJ was just 32.5 inches. His 3-cone was 7.22, which isn’t impressive for a guy his size. That’s a pedestrian showing. Not bad, but it didn’t help him at all. I like Van Noy, but not as a pass rusher. I value him as an ILB or as The Jack, Connor Barwin’s spot. Van Noy is a better football player than athlete. He could go as high as the 2nd round, but he’s not the answer to the Eagles need for a pass rusher. I would have no problem with the Eagles taking him and using him as an ILB and backup OLB.
James Gayle from Virginia Tech helped himself. Gayle (6-4, 259) ran 4.70. He did 26 reps on the bench. He had a VJ of 37 inches. His 3-cone time of 7.19 is good for his weight. Gayle is more physical than athletic when you watch the game tape. He’s another guy I’ll need to watch some more.
The Missouri guys didn’t fare so well. Both Kony Ealy (4.92) and Michael Sam (4.91) ran poorly in the 40. That’s going to kill Sam, who also didn’t lift or jump well. He measured in at 6-2, 261 and needed to show better athleticism than that. He’s now looking like a 5th or 6th round pick. Ealy is 6-4, 273. He can overcome the poor 40 due to that size. He also had a great 3-cone time, 6.83. Agility and quickness are more important for DL than pure speed. I don’t think the Eagles will be very interested in either guy. Neither looks like a 3-4 OLB.
Some small school kids did stand out.
Larry Webster from Bloomsburg measured in at 6-6, 252. He ran 4.58. That is a great size-speed combo. He had a VJ of 36.5 inches. His 3-cone time of 7.29 wasn’t impressive, but the overall workout got the attention of teams.
Howard Jones is a player I’d never heard of prior to Monday. He went to Shepherd College. Jones is only 6-2, 235, but he showed terrific athleticism. He ran 4.60 and had a VJ of 40.5 inches. His 3-cone time of 7.16 is solid, but was helped by only being 235 pounds. Hopefully we can find some game tape of him. Could be an interesting late round target.
I didn’t cover every OLB prospect, but these are the big names and most interesting guys.
I’ll write about the ILBs in another post. That’s not as big of a need area, but could be one of interest.
Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 129 Comments »
Let’s jump right in and talk about some interesting topics.
Peter King mentioned in an article that the Eagles met with Johnny Manziel. Say what? We’re going for Johnny Football? Uh, no. The Eagles have met with all the top underclassmen for years. This began under Reid/Heckert and continues today. Why? Scouts start doing research on prospects in May. They gather all kinds of info and build detailed reports. Underclassmen declare in late December or early January. The team may have done some preliminary work, but doesn’t have as good a feel for those guys. One way to catch up quickly is to make sure you meet with them at the Combine.
Here is the specific comment from King.
[Manziel and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, declined to discuss how many teams he met with this weekend or which they were, and the executive of the team I just referred to didn’t want to identify his team because it has an established quarterback and didn’t want to drum up controversy in that market. But it’s known from reports in various places that Manziel met with Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia coaches and team officials, and very likely Oakland, this weekend before flying back to Texas late Sunday afternoon.]
This isn’t a big deal. The Eagles are just doing their due diligence.
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The WRs worked out on Sunday and they put on quite a show. That’s bad news for Jason Avant and doesn’t really help Riley Cooper either.
I’ve had my doubts about the return of Avant. He is still a good possession receiver and blocker, but that’s about it. He’s got almost no RAC ability. People think of him as a good STer, but that’s more from the past. Per the Eagles official stats, Avant didn’t have any STs tackles this year. Great leader, but a limited player in this offense.
We don’t know what Chip Kelly wants in a slot receiver, but he’ll have his choice of players. Does he go for a small, quick guy? Does he prefer someone with speed? Does he want a big guy? The WR class is deep and talented enough that Kelly should be able to find what he’s looking for.
As for Cooper, the amount of good prospects hurts his value to the Eagles and other teams. Would someone in need of a solid starter rather sign Cooper or draft a player like Allen Robinson in the 2nd round? You could go for Martavis Bryant or Jordan Matthews after that. Or maybe you prefer smaller, faster guys. Brandin Cooks is an explosive 2nd round prospect. Or you could go for someone like Bruce Ellington with big upside in a later round.
Cooper is a proven commodity…sort of. He had one breakout season and even that has to be put into context. Cooper played opposite of one of the fastest players in the whole league. His RB led the league in rushing and so did his team. There were a pair of good pass-catching TEs. You can argue that Cooper will get even better with a full season as a starter. Or you can say that he needs the right circumstances to be successful. That all depends on your vantage point.
If the price is right, I’m still in favor of keeping both Maclin and Cooper, but there is something to be said for keeping just one and then adding a receiver in the draft. That guy could come in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th round and still be an effective player as a rookie.
In terms of big receivers, I still think Robinson from PSU would be a great fit. He is 6-3, 220, almost Cooper’s identical size. We know Kelly likes big receivers. Robinson has better RAC skills and could be a good starting receiver. Robinson ran a 4.60, but I expected that. He isn’t a burner on tape. Robinson is a workhorse receiver. He caught 97 passes this year. To put that in perspective, Cooper caught 81 passes in his entire career. I think Robinson is the kind of guy who you could feed the ball to.
That said, some of the speedy guys were a ton of fun to watch. Ellington and Cooks aren’t 6-2, 220 guys, but they are both very dangerous with the ball in their hands. Cooks could sneak into the 1st round, but more likely is a 2nd round pick. He ran 4.33 in the 40, which shows great straight-line speed. He ran 3.81 in the short shuttle, which shows quickness and agility. Can you imagine him in the slot or across the formation from DeSean Jackson? Ellington is incredibly fascinating because he used to be the starting point guard for the South Carolina basketball team. He ran 4.45, which gives him above average speed. Both guys looked terrific in drills. You could see them as gifted athletes with great body control. These guys could be very dangerous in space.
The Eagles could add a pair of receivers, one for the slot and someone else to play outside. The team could cut Avant and then lose Cooper in free agency. Getting Maclin back would make up for one guy, but he would only sign a short-term deal. Add some other player to battle with Arrelious Benn for a roster spot.
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Tim McManus had an interesting comment in his Combine report.
– Brandon Graham is a player to keep your eye on this offseason.
The people we talked to believe he is a 4-3 defensive end, pure and simple. Not a scheme fit.Howie Roseman knows the value of pass rushers in this league so I don’t think he will be in a hurry to trade Graham necessarily, but I do think he will entertain any offers that come through.
Graham would benefit from a fresh start and could be attractive to 4-3 teams looking to bolster their pass rush. The Eagles need to build this defense with pieces that fit. Not a lock, but I think there is a decent chance he gets dealt.
I mentioned the other day that I think the Eagles should trade Graham. I don’t see him fitting in the 3-4. Deal him and use some resources (draft pick, money) to build up depth at OLB.
Posted: February 23rd, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 90 Comments »
The Scouting Combine really got going on Saturday. That’s when the OL and TEs hit the field to do drills and the athletic tests. Sunday is for WRs, RBs and QBs. Monday is DL/LBs. The DBs will close things out on Tuesday.
This is a very talented, very deep draft class. Tons of athleticism. Chip Kelly has to be drooling as he watches these prospects work out on the field.
For PE.com I wrote a column on understanding the Combine. This is a critical part of the scouting process, with “part” being the key word. Some dismiss this as the underwear olympics. Others think players are defined by how fast they run, how much they lift or how high they jump. Both of those extremes miss the mark.
The Eagles could be in the market for some young OL. Yesterday’s workouts showed a deep, athletic group of blockers. I won’t cover the high prospects because those guys will be long gone by pick 22. Let’s talk about some other guys who could be of interest.
Xavier Su’a-Filo is a very interesting guy. He played LT and OG for UCLA. Mike Mayock relayed a really good story. Coach David Shaw of Stanford recruited Su’a-Filo a few years back. At some point Shaw watched a pickup football game where Su’a-Filo played Safety. Granted, Su’a-Filo probably wasn’t as big back then, but that’s still pretty crazy. Shaw said Su’a-Filo backpedaled and looked good in coverage. He even picked off a pass. Does that sound like the kind of OL that Chip Kelly would like or what?
Su’a-Filo (6-4, 307) ran 5.04 in the 40. He tied for 3rd with a SS of 4.44. Su’a-Filo will play OG in the NFL (doesn’t have OT feet), but he could slide to OT during a game if needed. He is a versatile athlete.
Michael Schofield played RT for Michigan this year. He’s got a frame that Kelly will like at 6-6, 301. Schofield ran the 40 in 5.01, showing better speed than I would have anticipated. He’s not a top athlete, but he is an interesting mid-to-late round target.
Ja’Wuan James from Tennessee is an interesting OT prospect. He is 6-6, 311. He’s got 35-inch arms. Hands are 9 7/8. I thought he was impressive in the on-field drills. He looked especially good in the mirror drill. James looked like a natural pass blocker. He tied for 5th in the vertical jump and was 6th in the 3-cone drill. You’ve got a prospect with a good frame, long arms, athleticism and pass blocking skills. Could be a good mid-round player to take and develop.
Matt Patchan was the LT for Boston College in 2013. He began his career at Florida as a DL. He then moved to the OL. Injuries kept him from playing at all in 2012. Patchan measured in at 6-6, 302. He had a strong day of workouts. Patchan ran 4.97 in the 40 and then had the top VJ at 33.5 inches. He’s another guy with the background, size and athleticism Kelly should like.
We know Kelly likes LSU players. OG Trai Turner was impressive on Saturday. He measured in at 6-3, 310 with 34-inch arms. He then ran 4.93 in the 40. Turner is a pure OG and lacks the size that Kelly wants, but he could be an interesting prospect to draft and develop.
Some of you will scream about 40 time being meaningless for OL. The real key is the 10-yard split, but to my knowledge the NFL doesn’t make them publicly available so I can focus on them. And the Eagles do have a lot of OL who ran fast 40s. Even Allen Barbre, the backup LT, ran a fast 40 when he was at the Combine. Please understand that I’m not saying you simply look at the fastest OL and draft them. The guys have to be good blockers first and foremost. Speed is more than just a bonus trait, but it only matters if the prospect is a good blocker.
The TEs also worked out on Saturday. Eric Ebron is the big name. He measured in at 6-4, 250. I don’t know that he’ll last all the way to pick 22, but if he does, the Eagles could be interested. Ebron could be a special player. If you get the chance to draft someone like that, you have to be be really careful before passing on them. Ebron ran a 4.60, which is very good for his size. Unfortunately he didn’t do a full workout.
Former Oregon TE Colt Lyerla was up and down. He measured in at 6-4, 242. I expected him to be closer to 255. He only did 15 reps on the bench, not good for a TE. But he also ran 4.61, which is very good, and then had a VJ of 39 inches. That’s incredibly impressive for his size.
I’m not going to write about a bunch of TEs. The Eagles will take someone if it is the right guy, but I don’t think they’ll feel they must go get one.