Doug Pederson has mentioned versatility as a desired quality in his players more than once or twice. But most coaches mention that. It sounds great.
The Eagles really did focus on versatility with this group of rookies. Pederson seems to be a coach who genuinely means what he says.
Isaac Seumalo – Played all over the O-line in his college career. Can play any of the interior spots in the NFL. I don’t think he could play OT unless it was an emergency.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai – Started at RT and LT at TCU. Could play on either side in the NFL. Might be able to play OG as well, but more of a natural OT.
Wendell Smallwood – Can run, catch and throw. Used to line up in the slot early in his career. Lined up a bit outside in 2015. Also has some KOR experience.
That’s pretty good for a RB.
Blake Countess – So versatile he actually went to 2 colleges. Okay, maybe that doesn’t count. Did start at CB and S in his career. Could turn out to be the next Sheldon Brown, Brandon Boykin or Rodney McLeod. I think Safety might be the best spot for him.
Jalen Mills – 4-year starter at LSU who spent time at S and CB. Like Countess, can play all over in the NFL. Covers well enough for CB, but hits/tackles well enough for S. The Eagles have to figure out where he fits the best.
Joe Walker – More of a projection. Spent his entire college career playing ILB. The Eagles want him to compete for the backup MLB job right away. But also has the size and athleticism to play OLB. Walker is 6-2, 236. He ran 4.60 at his Pro Day. That could be a WLB or a SAM. His versatility could give the Eagles the option of only having 5 LBs dress on gameday, allowing them to have an extra DL or DB available. Walker has to show he can handle MLB first. I did find it interesting that the Eagles looked at some thumper type MLBs but ended up choosing an athletic guy who can play multiple spots.
Byron Marshall – More of a weapon than a position. Was a WR/RB/RS for Oregon. The Eagles are projecting him at RB for now. Marshall could be groomed to replace Darren Sproles in a year. Forget about what you call Marshall, just get him the ball in space and let him make plays for you.
Aziz Shittu – Played DT, DE and NT for Stanford. Will likely be a NT or DT for the Eagles, but could get the occasional look at DE. Has good quickness, but I’m not sure he has the speed for DE in the Wide 9 front. No matter where you lined him up in college, Shittu was disruptive.
Destiny Vaeao – Played DE and DT for Washington State. Can play NT or DT for the Eagles. Strong enough to be a stout run defender. Athletic enough to be disruptive when flying up the field.
Connor Wujciak – Played DT, NT and DE for Boston College. Ran 4.91 at the Combine, where he was 6-2, 291. For the sake of comparison, Fletcher Cox ran 4.79 at 6-4, 298. Wujciak had the highest SPARQ score of any major college DT. This kid is one heck of an athlete and you can bet Jim Schwartz will move him around to try and take advantage of that.
You can see that this group of rookies can play different roles. Just as importantly, the schemes allow for that. The 3-4 was more limiting in what players could do. Fletcher Cox can play all 4 spots in the 4-3. Jordan Hicks can play all the linebacker spots in the 4-3.
The offense will use more huddles and player changes. That allows role players to have more impact. Chip Kelly wanted speed. That mean having the same 11 guys out there as much as possible. Pederson will use tempo, but will also play more situational football.
There are plenty of versatile players who failed in the NFL so these rookies still have a major challenge in front of them. Some of the guys will be battling each other for roster spots and/or playing time. The more things a guy can do well, the better his chances of succeeding.
Oh yeah, it also wouldn’t hurt to be kinda decent on Special Teams as well.
The draft may be over, but I’ll be writing a lot about it for the next couple of months. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the picks the Eagles made, both in terms of the players themselves and also how the moves make sense (or don’t) from the team’s perspective.
I haven’t said a lot about Carson Wentz in the past few days. He got a ton of coverage from the major media so I focused elsewhere. I’ll have plenty to say about Wentz, but let’s go elsewhere for now.
From my perspective, the two most interesting picks were RB Wendell Smallwood and DB Blake Countess. Smallwood is the more noteworthy player for now so we’ll start with him.
First, I liked Smallwood quite a bit. He came to my attention at the Scouting Combine and grew on me from there.
During the college season, I tend to focus on Seniors and elite Juniors. Smallwood, unlike Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, was not on my radar. I watched a bit of West Virginia, but simply wasn’t aware of him. I start checking out Juniors at the Combine.
I remember seeing RB22 going through the drills on the field and wondering who that was. The player was fluid and moved very naturally. He really impressed me. I figured out that was some guy named Wendell Smallwood. It didn’t take long before I found out he led the Big 12 in rushing in 2015 and suddenly I had to take him seriously as a prospect. Here’s the quick snippet I wrote on him back then.
RB Wendell Smallwood – Good showing. 5-10, 208. Ran 4.47 and posted great 3-cone time of 6.83. Only jumped 33.5 inches. I was impressed by him in the drills. Also looked good catching the ball.
Just for fun, here is LeSean McCoy’s Pro Day.
VJ – 29
3C – 6.82
That’s pretty interesting, huh? No one is saying Smallwood will be Shady, Pt. 2. McCoy was a great college player and went in the 2nd round. Smallwood was a good college player and went in the 5th round. While similar in size and athleticism, they are different guys.
One thing they do have in common is the ability to make plays. Shady did a great job of that at the NFL level. For now, Smallwood has only done it in college. But he did lead the NCAA in runs of 10 or more yards in 2015. Smallwood averaged 6.4 yards per carry. He isn’t just going to move the chains. Smallwood can help you get chunk plays, something the Eagles offense lacked in 2015.
There is the player, school, size, speed (40 time) and one other number. Took me a couple of minutes to figure that out, but it is the Wonderlic score. Goff got a 34. Wentz got a 40. You can see that more clearly on another picture that shows just his card.
If you have to reduce a player to minimal information, going with name, school, size, speed and brains is a pretty good way to do it. I’m not saying the Wonderlic is a true way of measuring intelligence, but it is a way to quantify and compare the relative intelligence of players. Imperfect? Yes, but likely better than nothing.
I do not know what the letter under the first name means (GW for Goff and G for Wentz). Any guesses?
Eagles released LB Brandon Hepburn, RB Ross Scheuerman, and FB Ryan Mueller …They're paring the roster to open spots for UDFAs
He was a body. The team wanted to take a look at him. They did and decided to go in another direction. There is no guarantee the Eagles will spend a roster spot on a FB. They need someone who can fill that role during games for a play here and a play there. Trey Burton would make the most sense.
The Eagles will keep their eyes open. If the right guy is out there, they’ll sign him.
Doug Pederson realizes that keeping a pure FB is a bit of a luxury. He pointed out this spring that the player would be a good STer more than anything. Maybe they will consider converting a LB. Bryan Braman is a good athlete and STer. I’d prefer to keep him on defense since he can be an effective pass rusher in blowout situations when the other team throws the ball over and over.
We now know the team. Let’s look at the updated depth chart.
QB – Sam Bradford … Chase Daniel … Carson Wentz … McLeod Bethel-Thompson RB – Ryan Mathews … Darren Sproles … Kenjon Barner … Wendell Smallwood WR – Nelson Agholor … Rueben Randle … Jonathan Krause ,,, Cayleb Jones WR – Jordan Matthews … Chris Givens … Xavier Rush … Marcus Johnson WR – Josh Huff … T.J. Graham … Byron Marshall … Hunter Sharp TE – Brent Celek … Zach Ertz … Trey Burton … Chris Pantale …. Dillon Gordon LT – Jason Peters … Halavoulivaati Vaitai … Brett Boyko LG – Alan Barbre … Stefen Wisniewski… Malcolm Bunche … Isaac Seumalo OC – Jason Kelce … Josh Andrews … Barrett Jones … Bruce Johnson RG – Brandon Brooks … Matt Tobin … Darrell Greene RT – Lane Johnson … Dennis Kelly … Andrew Gardner
DE – Vinny Curry … Connor Barwin … Travis Long … Alex McCalister NT – Bennie Logan … Beau Allen … Mike Martin … Connor Wujciak DT – Fletcher Cox … Taylor Hart … Travis Raciti … Destiny Vaeao … Aziz Shittu DE – Brandon Graham … Marcus Smith … Bryan Braman … Steven Means WLB – Mychal Kendricks … Najee Goode … Myke Tavarres MLB – Jordan Hicks … Joe Walker … Deontae Skinner SLB – Nigel Bradham … Brandon Hepburn … Quentin Gause SS – Malcolm Jenkins … Ed Reynolds … Jalen Mills FS – Rodney McLeod … Chris Maragos … Blake Countess CB – Eric Rowe …. Nolan Carroll … Denzel Rice CB – Leodis McKelvin … Ron Brooks … Jaylen Watkins … C.J. Smith NB – JaCorey Shepherd … Randall Evans … Aaron Grymes
P – Donnie Jones …Ryan Quigley K – Cody Parkey … Caleb Sturgis LS – Jon Dorenbos … John DePalma
I left off a WR / RB or two to save space. But these are the key players listed.
Overall, this is a solid roster. There are holes to be sure, but there is also plenty of talent. Don’t read too much into the order of players. This is a guess on my part. The players will set the depth chart with their performance.
I’ve also guessed at some positions. Stefen Wisniewski could play LG or C. Josh Andrews and Barrett Jones could also play G or C. I don’t know if Blake Countess is going to play CB, S or the slot. With so few Safeties on the roster, I went ahead and put him there.
The big difference to me is summed up in one word…competition.
The LG was basically given to Allen Barbre last year after Evan Mathis was released. Riley Cooper wasn’t pushed at WR despite coming off a disappointing 2014 season. Vinny Curry was a key player, but couldn’t push for a starting role because he didn’t fit the base scheme.
This year feels different.
Sam Bradford is going to be pushed by Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz.
The Eagles added young veteran WRs Rueben Randle, Chris Givens and T.J. Graham to fight for roster spots and/or playing time.
OL depth is greatly increased with 2 draft picks and 2 good free agent additions. There will be true competition this year.
There should be good competition for the backup DE and DT spots.
CB is wide open. There will be competition for the starting roles as well as backup spot.
Some spots are weaker than others. There isn’t great depth at LB. The Eagles like a trio of rookies that they brought in, but it isn’t ideal to have that much youth at one spot.
Jerome Couplin, Freddie Martino released as Eagles make room for the new regime's projects.
The Eagles have said all the right things publicly. They have tried to make contact with Bradford. He’s not responding.
I don’t know where he thinks he’s going at this point. The Eagles might be willing to trade him if the right situation came up, but it isn’t here now.
Bradford needs to handle this the right way. He’s made his feelings known. Now he needs to show up and start getting on with the business of football. If he’s dealt, he’ll be more ready for his new team. If he sticks around, he’ll be ready for the Eagles.
The big thing Bradford seems to want is a long term home. The best way to get that is to play well in 2016. If he’s up and down like previous years, he won’t be getting a long deal anywhere.
The draft is in the books. The Eagles have added some good UDFAs. Since we’ve already talked about the draft picks, let’s now talk about the UDFAs.
OG Darrell Greene – 6-3, 321 – San Diego State – 3-year starter for SDSU. Played RG. Plays with good leverage and is a powerful blocker. Limited athlete, but good enough for RG. I’m sure one of the things the Eagles liked about him is that he plays with an edge. Shows a nasty streak on the field. Draftable player, but was suspended for some games at the beginning of the year and that may have hurt him. Also was a very deep OL class. The Eagles checked him out before the draft so this is someone they had real interest in.
LB Myke Tarvarres – 6-0, 230 – Incarnate Word – Small school star, but previously played at Arkansas so he has legit talent and athleticism. Had 22.5 TFLs in 2015 and was just dominant against lesser competition. Had a good showing at his Pro Day. Played LB/DE and attacked off the ball a lot. Projects to WLB in the NFL. Could also be a great STer with his athleticism and physicality. Punishing hitter. Really interested to see him play.
DT Connor Wujciak – 6-2, 291 – Boston College – Athletic, hard-working DT. Played a lot of NT and was willing to do the dirty work of eating up blockers. When allowed to attack, he was disruptive. Had 12 TFLs (4.5 sacks) on the season. Draftable player. Good fit for the scheme. Can play the NT role, but also able to slide over and be effective 3-technique.
DT Aziz Shittu – 6-3, 279 – Stanford – Odd player. Played DE, DT and NT for the Cardinal. Led the team with 14 TFLs (4.0 sacks). Put on some game tape and he’s very limited. Watch other games and Shittu jumps out. Can be very quick off the ball. Problem is that he lacks ideal agility. Limited athlete. Has violent hands and uses them effectively. Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl. Haven’t had a chance to watch that game yet. Would be a 3-tech in the Eagles system. Needs to bulk up a bit. UDFA grade.
DT Destiny Vaeao – 6-3, 298 – Washington State – Breakout season for the Cougars, finishing with 12 TFLs (4.5 sacks). Looks very good at times. Strong Pro Day performance. Did 27 reps, showing upper body strength. Had vertical jump of 35.5 inches, incredibly good for a DT. That shows lower body explosion. You see that on tape when he attacks off the ball. Was DE in base 3-4 defense at WASU. Strong enough to be stout vs run. Athletic enough to rush the passer. Draftable player who can play NT or 3-tech for the Eagles. Good scheme fit.
LB Quentin Gause – 6-0, 232 – Rutgers – Played SAM. Doesn’t have ideal frame for that spot in the NFL, but is strong and will set the edge. Played in space as well as up on the LOS. Solid athlete. 2-year starter who finished 2nd on the team in tackles each year. UDFA prospect who could challenge for roster spot or be ideal practice squad candidate.
WR Byron Marshall – 5-9, 201 – Oregon – Versatile playmaker for the Ducks. RB/WR/KOR. Not a great athlete. Ran 4.56 at his Pro Day. Terrible vertical jump of just 29.5 inches. That would be okay for OL, not a skill player. He is a quick, agile player. I wonder if the Eagles see him as potential replacement for Darren Sproles or more of a slot receiver candidate. Ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2013. Had more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2014. Only played 4 games as Senior before getting hurt. Was KOR this year and averaged 27.5 yards per return.
WR Cayleb Jones – 6-3, 209 – Arizona – Son of former Dallas Cowboy LB Robert Jones. Began at Texas, but left after breaking the jaw of a tennis player. Got a fresh start and Arizona and spent 3 years there. No incidents. Star receiver for them in 2014, 2015. Averaged 15 yards per catch and totaled 14 TDs. Big receiver who can play through contact and make tough catches. That’s the good news. Bad news is that he only runs 4.65 and also doesn’t get much separation from DBs. Will need to learn to run routes. Has potential, but needs work. Should have stayed for his Senior season.
LS John DePalma – 6-6, 252 – West Virginia – 4-year snapper for the Mountaineers. Also played some TE. The Eagles need competition for Jon Dorenbos.
WR Hunter Sharp – 5-11, 196 – Utah State – Suspended for the first 2 games of 2015. Came back from that and posted solid numbers. Ran 4.51 at his Pro Day. Has good RAC ability and a bit of return experience. Doesn’t have great speed, but was effective downfield receiver at times. UDFA prospect.
WR Marcus Johnson – 6-1, 204 – Texas – Explosive speed. Ran 4.39 at his Pro Day. Unfortunately, a straight line player. Terrible agility numbers (4.39, 7.26). Had a 37-inch vertical, which shows explosion and helps with his speed. Caught 61 career passes. Also has some KOR experience. Long shot, but you live the size/speed combo.
RB Cedric O’Neal – 5-11, 204 – Valdosta State – Very good small school player, but limited pro prospect. Scored 49 TDs and averaged more than 6 yards per carry. Had a very strong Pro Day workout that got teams attention. I’m just not sure how he will adapt to stronger competition. Certainly has the physical ability to play in the NFL, but I’m not sure about the polished running skills. Worth a look in camp. The Eagles did show interest in him prior to the draft.
CB C.J. Smith – 5-11, 188 – NDSU – 3-year starter for the Bison. Broke up 56 passes in that time. Picked off 8 others. You love that kind of production, but also worry why so many passes came his way. Sloppy tackler. Must get stronger and more physical to have any chance in the NFL.
TE Dillon Gordon – 6-4, 295 – LSU – Crazy story. Started 25 games, but got hurt and missed most of his Senior season with Achilles injury. Victim of a stabbing at a bar so I’m sure that incident prompted plenty of questions from teams. Lists at 295, but doesn’t look that big to me. Good blocker, but I don’t think he’s likely to convert to OL. At his best blocking vs LBs and DBs. Had 7 career catches. Get him healthy and see what he can do in 2017.
C Bruce Johnson – 6-3, 302 – Maine – Good athlete who started for 3 years. Won the 2015 Rimington Award for the FCS level, meaning he was the top Center at the FCS level. Dominant at his level. Watch him play against Boston College and he more than holds his own. My favorite UDFA and it isn’t even close. Hell, might be my favorite Eagle. This kid is rattlesnake mean. Blocks until the whistle blows and then keeps going for half a second. Doesn’t want to just block his opponent. Wants to put the guy on the ground and drive him through the earth until the dude is in China. I’ll be writing a lot more about him this spring.
I’ll be posting a draft recap and all kinds of thoughts in the coming days.
The Eagles made some interesting moves and added some talented players. There are a lot of football and non-football angles to discuss.
Overall I think Howie Roseman and the scouting staff did a good job.
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