Mac is Free

Posted: June 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 125 Comments »

The Chiefs saved some big news for Friday night.

This is surprising because of the timing.

I talked to Jeff McLane and Jimmy Bama at the Senior Bowl about the Chiefs possibly cutting Maclin. They had a lot of young WRs and not much cap room. I wasn’t sure the move would happen, but it made some sense. When March came and went, I figured Maclin was safe.

Oops

The Chiefs needed cap space to get their draft picks signed so they cut Maclin. This wasn’t about health or performance.

KC will go young at WR.

The question now becomes whether the Eagles have any interest in going after Maclin. He is a high character player with a good combination of size and speed. He posted big numbers in 2015 (87-1088-8), but they fell last year due to a groin injury and the emergence of Tyreek Hill.

Putting Maclin across from Alshon Jeffery would be a fun idea, but Torrey Smith already has that spot. Smith is almost a year younger and is a good deep threat. Maclin is the better overall receiver.

There are a handful of teams who need Maclin…not just want him. Buffalo could use a reliable veteran. And Mac knows Sean McDermott from their time together in Philly. The Ravens could use WR help. Marty Mornhinweg is the OC there and knows Mac well from Philly. The Panthers have serious questions at receiver. There are a few other teams that are in the same boat.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Eagles would be able to cut Smith and sign Maclin to a cheap deal. Possible, yes, but not likely. Maclin could decide coming back to Philly is worth making less money, but that’s generally not how players think. Maclin isn’t getting any younger so he may want to get as much money as he can to help set up his family for the post-football time that is coming.

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles try anything here. Back in 2011 the team got into trouble because they focused on individual pieces rather than the overall group and how the pieces fit together. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t look into the situation, rather that they need to think this through carefully and figure out if it makes sense to even make some calls.

Right now the Eagles have a good group of receivers. Jeffery is the workhorse. Smith is the deep threat on the other side. Jordan Matthews is good in the slot. Agholor can play any of the spots (playing well is a different story). Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson provide some speed and youth.

Maclin could play in the slot, but I think he is best outside. You would need to give him Smith’s spot to get the best out of him. The one real benefit to signing Maclin would be that he would give you insurance in case anything happens to Jeffery.

Maclin returning to Philly would be a great story, but it isn’t likely to happen.

_


Barnett Signs

Posted: June 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 69 Comments »

Derek Barnett is officially an Eagle.

Remember the days when players were signing in July and August? Brodrick Bunkley missed at least a week of Training Camp and that definitely hurt him in his rookie year. Hurt the Eagles too. Thankfully the league and the NFLPA found a way to fix the system so that players get signed quickly and easily these days. Everyone benefits.

The Eagles have everyone under contract so there are no excuses for the rookies not to play at a Hall of Fame level. Reggie White holds the team record with 21 sacks in a season (back in the 12-game season of 1987!!!) and I fully expect Barnett to break that this year. He doesn’t need 30 or anything crazy like that. I’ll settle for just 21.5. No reason to be greedy, right?

*****

2012 Fletcher Cox
2013 Lane Johnson
2014 Marcus Smith
2015 Nelson Agholor
2016 Carson Wentz
2017 Derek Barnett

Barnett is off to a good start. I know it is way early, but we can only judge players on what they’ve done. So far he has impressed his teammates and his coaches, with both ability and work ethic. Beside, Barnett felt like a good pick. He was a star player from a major school who was picked where most thought he would go. Solid athlete with solid size and great production.

If he pans out, that would give the Eagles four good 1st round picks in the last six years. That’s how you build a good foundation for a team. Teams that do well in the 1st round are going to have a really good base to build around.

This group does have to prove they can take the next step. Johnson has to stay on the field for 16 games. He better be watching his substance intake with an electron microscope.

“What would you like in your coffee, Mr. Johnson?”

“Nothing. I’ll take it black.”

“What toppings would you like on your pizza?”

“Just cheese. And don’t go to heavy on that.”

“Sprinkles on your ice cream?”

“Are you nuts? Are you trying to get me thrown out of the league? Just give it to me plain!”

Wentz has to show us how good he can be. He had a solid rookie season, but no one is exactly sure what to expect for this season and the future. Is he going to be Ryan Tannehill or Ben Roethlisberger? I think Wentz has a bright future, but we need to see him in action this year to get a better feel for things.

Cox has established himself as a Pro Bowl player and one of the best DTs in the game, but even he can raise his game. Albert Haynesworth was a dominant force under Jim Schwartz. Cox has that kind of potential. We’ll have to see if he can actually get to that level for a whole season or will just flash that kind of ability. It isn’t easy to play at that level. Not many guys are able to pull that off.

And Barnett has to show us he can play. He feels like a good pick to this point, but it is early. He’s got a lot more tests ahead of him.

If this group of 1st round picks can take a big step forward, it will help the Eagles to have a winning season and get back to the playoffs.

*****

What about Smith and Agholor?

Smith feels like he is trying to get the Eagles to cut him by not showing up for the OTAs. That’s just dumb on his part. He might feel he’s not going to make the team so he wants the Eagles to cut him sooner rather than later so he can find a job elsewhere. I could understand that logic. However, you send a bad sign to 31 other teams when you skip OTAs. You do need another team to want you.

I guess Marcus could put together a clip reel of his 4 career sacks. I’m betting NFL teams would be blown away by a 25-second highlight reel.

Agholor is playing better than last year, but he’s got to show he can be reliable and consistent. He’s like the screw-up sibling a lot of people have and he’s all excited by not doing anything bad for two days. “Do you trust me now?”

Uh, no.

Nice start, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.

_


Schwartz Talks

Posted: June 1st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 57 Comments »

Jim Schwartz met the media on Tuesday morning before practice. He didn’t have anything groundbreaking to say, but did share a few interesting comments.

Schwartz offered some good thoughts on Vinny Curry, who disappointed in 2016. Schwartz opened by talking about the fact Curry was more disruptive than people realize and praised his DE for getting pressure. He didn’t leave it at that. Schwartz talked about how this year they need Curry to do a better job of finishing plays. Getting near the QB or getting a hand on him isn’t the same as sacking him. There needs to be more sacks.

The staff went back and studied the 2016 tape. The biggest thing they saw with Curry is that he was on the ground too much. “On the ground” is a big no-no for DL and OL. You can’t do your job if you aren’t on your feet. Schwartz pointed out that Curry started his rushes well, but just wasn’t finishing strong. He needs to do a better job of staying off the ground and being as strong at the finish as he was at the snap.

Schwartz said the staff gave each player an offseason plan, letting them know what they needed to work on to play better in 2017. You can’t just tell someone to “be better”. You have to explain what specific issues need to be worked on and how they can do that.

There was a lot of talk about the D-line. Schwartz referred to it as “the engine that runs our defense”. They want a deep, talented line where players are competing for roster spots and playing time. Schwartz talked about the DE spot being better with the additions of Chris Long and Derek Barnett. There is going to be a lot of competition there.

Schwartz praised Barnett for showing a strong work ethic in practice. The guys may not be in full pads or having full contact, but you still love to hear that your top pick is working his butt off in the OTAs. That’s a good sign. Schwartz also talked about Barnett’s ability to hover off the ground as he went around blockers. A lot of rushers struggle to stay off the ground when they dip under/around blockers off the edge. Barnett has the rare ability to do that consistently and it is a big reason that he had so many sacks.

Someone asked about attendance at the OTAs, likely wanting comments on Fletcher Cox and Marcus Smith. Schwartz didn’t want to touch that topic. It really is more of a head coach thing, but even then you can’t say too much since the OTAs are voluntary. Schwartz did talk about how much he loves this time of year and how he focuses on the players who are there. That’s the safe answer and honestly, anything else is wasting time. Fletcher Cox is probably the team’s best player. Him missing a week of practice in May isn’t a big deal. And Smith…if he’s not selling out to win a job, then focus your time on Alex McCalister and Steven Means. Good coaches focus on what they can actually control and don’t worry about the other stuff.

Schwartz did talk about the value of this time of year by telling a baseball story. He talked about something he heard Jim Palmer, the legendary Orioles pitcher, say once. Palmer had a terrible showing in spring training, wiht an ERA of something like 6.00. Someone asked Palmer if he was worried and he said “no”, that he had spent all of spring training throwing nothing but change-ups. He was using that time to practice something specific. He trusted his ability to throw fastballs and curve balls so he focused on change-ups.

This is the time of year for players to focus on specific parts of their game. This is the time of year for coaches to really work with them on the details of their position. There is a lot of teaching to be done now. The closer the season gets, the more coaches have to worry about winning games. For now, they can look at the players as individuals who need to be developed in very specific ways.

Schwartz got asked about the CB position and specific players. He praised Jalen Mills, a player he seems to really like. Schwartz isn’t delusional. He pointed out that Mills has things to work on, but he loves his attitude and work ethic.

He had good things to say about Patrick Robinson. The Eagles like his versatility. Robinson can play in the slot or outside. They liked what they saw of him in 2015. Robinson got hurt last year and injuries were his biggest issue.

Schwartz didn’t go into specifics, but he seemed excited by some of the other returning CBs and even some UDFAs from this year. I could see him loving Jomal Wiltz because of the way that kid plays. I don’t know if he’s good enough to make it in the NFL, but he is tough, confident and aggressive.

Schwartz sees potential in this group, but pointed out that means nothing. They have to prove they can play well and get the job done.

_


OTAs – Week 2

Posted: May 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 107 Comments »

The Eagles were back in action on Tuesday and it was open to the media so we have some news and nuggets to take in.

Rather than go writer by writer, let’s talk about players/positions. We’ll start with CBs.

Jimmy Bama on Rasul Douglas.

While Douglas got beaten on that red zone play, he had a fantastic day otherwise. In a different red zone drill, he broke sharply on a slant route intended for Nelson Agholor and was able to make the play. Later in the practice, Douglas got his hands on three consecutive passes. He is always aware of where the ball is, which is why he was able to lead the nation in interceptions last year, with eight.

That is very encouraging to hear. Looking good for a day doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it is great to hear the rookie CB is performing well. That is the weakest position on the team and it is one spot where a rookie has a legit shot to win a starting job. Douglas isn’t there yet, but he’s trending in the right direction. He’s showing that the pro game isn’t too big for him, at least not right now.

Les Bowen had a good quote from Douglas in regard to breaking up passes, despite being so new.

“It makes me feel good, boosts confidence. I’m still waiting for my first interception, but it’s good to get a feel of the ball, the route concepts,” said Douglas, a third-round pick from West Virginia who intercepted nine passes in his two seasons there.

This kid is really growing on me. He doesn’t want to just cover, he wants the ball. I love DBs who think like that and have the skills to back it up. He will get burned at times, but will also make some big plays.

Jeff McLane had some notes on other corners.

I don’t want to make too much of a May practice in shorts and shells, but the much-maligned Eagles cornerbacks had a nice day, particularly some of the guys lower on the depth chart. Mitchell White, a former CFLer, batted a Wentz pass to Smith to the ground. Aaron Grymes, another product of the Great White North, undercut a Nick Foles pass and intercepted it. Undrafted rookie Randall Goforth (young man) broke up a Foles toss to Burton. And Douglas, despite that jump ball loss to Jeffery, had some fine moments. He had tight coverage vs. Agholor on an errant pass in the back of the end zone and jumped another toss to Agholor.

Grymes is a player I think could once again challenge for a roster spot. Goforth was a S/Nickel at UCLA so it is interesting to see the Eagles playing him mostly at CB. He has good ball skills and the ability to play inside or out so you can see where the Eagles coaches would have interest.

The Eagles need multiple players to help the CB situation. This isn’t a one-guy fix.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Jump

Posted: May 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 60 Comments »

Whenever a new coach takes over a team and makes serious changes, it starts a new clock, so to speak. 2016 was Year One for Doug Pederson. There were new schemes on offense and defense. There was a new starting QB ( a rookie at that) and a fair amount of personnel changes.

Year One is about learning. And adjusting. You set a baseline for things.

2017 will be Year Two. And there should be a jump this year.

Go back to Andy Reid’s first years. The 1999 team went 5-11. The 2000 team made a huge jump, going 11-5 and looking worlds different. Donovan McNabb was no longer a helpless rookie and the team found ways to win close games instead of losing them.

I don’t anticipate a huge jump this year because the Eagles went 7-9 and were highly competitive last year. They were a couple of plays away from being a playoff team. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty of room for improvement, but the 2016 team was better than the ’99 bunch. There isn’t as much room for improvement.

I wrote about the players and the jump for PE.com. Not everyone will improve. Someone will always find a way to disappoint. As long as that someone isn’t Carson Wentz, the Eagles should be okay. I am certain he will be better. The question for me is how big a jump he makes. Obviously I think part of his improvement will be related to a better supporting cast (you know…receivers who can actually catch the ball).

*****

Evan Silva of RotoWorld has Wentz as one of his fantasy football breakout candidates for this year.

Wentz started his rookie year fast against one of the NFL’s easiest Weeks 1-6 schedules (CLE, CHI, PIT, DET, WAS), only to fall flat the rest of the way. Experiencing recurring mechanical flaws amid pass-protection breakdowns with an atrocious pass-catcher corps, Wentz was Pro Football Focus’ lowest-graded passer from Week 7 on with a dismal 9:13 TD-to-INT ratio and 5.77 yards-per-attempt average over Philadelphia’s final 11 games.

Popular sentiment remains positive on Wentz entering year two, and the Eagles’ pass-catching upgrades further that optimism. Perimeter receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith join middle-field targets Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz to form a multi-dimensional passing game. Draft busts Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham, respectively, played 78% and 57% of the Eagles’ 2016 offensive snaps. Agholor may open the season as a game-day scratch, while DGB’s roster odds are long. After Wentz finished fifth in the NFL in pass attempts (607), an efficiency boost derived from improved weapons would go a long way toward Wentz realizing his breakout potential.

That comment about the schedule…3 of those teams finished with winning records. The first 2 games were easy. Things changed drastically for the rest of the season.

It really would have been interesting to see the Eagles if they had a different bye week and/or didn’t have the Lane Johnson suspension. If you are going to have bad luck, do it in Year One of the new regime. Save the good fortune for better teams down the road.

*****

More OTAs today.

And Jim Schwartz will meet the media. Should be interesting to hear what he’s got to say.

_