Missing DeMeco?

Posted: December 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 164 Comments »

The Eagles just faced Marshawn Lynch and held him to 23-86. One of those was a draw play on 3rd/long that went for 21 yards. The rest of the game he was 22-65. The week before the defense held DeMarco Murray to his worst game of the year, 20-73. I never thought this would happen with Casey Matthews playing in place of DeMeco Ryans.

The key in theses 2 games was the play of the DL, specifically Fletcher Cox. I thought he had a great game watching live, but when you study the tape you are truly blown away. He was easily the best player on the field Sunday…for either team. Amazing performance.

Still, this does make you wonder about the future at ILB. DeMeco is a good player and I’m not trying to diminish that. But he’s older, expensive and coming off an injury. You have to wonder if the organization will look at this situation and feel they could move on to another option that is cheaper/younger.

Obviously another factor here is Mychal Kendricks. He started playing great down the stretch in 2013 and hasn’t stopped. The only thing that slows him down is injuries. When he’s on the field, he’s a Pro Bowl caliber player. MK gives the Eagles one star at ILB and a player they can build around.

Matthews has been solid since taking over. He doesn’t do anything flashy and isn’t a tackle machine. He’s generally in the right gap and tackles the ball if it comes his way. That’s the minimum you’re looking for in an ILB. The coaches say he does a good job of getting the defense set. None of us outsiders can really comment on that.

I’d love to see the Eagles find another speedy, athletic guy. That would help with coverage. Maybe Najee Goode can be that guy. I don’t know if the coaches will seriously think of keeping Marcus Smith inside. He has the potential to be good in there. He can rush, cover and play the run. He’s got good size at 6-3, 251. His future will be somewhat determined by what the team does with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. If the Eagles keep Barwin/Cole/Graham together, they need to move Smith to get him on the field. That’s no insult to Smith but rather a compliment to how well the OLBs are playing.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Any number of things can happen. I am shocked that the defense hasn’t missed DeMeco more. Hes’ a terrific leader on and off the field. He’s also a good all-around LB. There is no question that he would have out-played Matthews had he been on the field. I guess the question is how much of a difference that would have made. Maybe less than any of us anticipated.


Safety Dance

Posted: December 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 141 Comments »

The Eagles made their move, but it wasn’t a WR. They signed S Jerome Couplin III from the Lions practice squad. This is an interesting guy.

Couplin is 6-1, 213. That’s pretty good size. He has an 81-inch wingspan. That’s freaky. We know the Eagles love players with long arms so they must have really been excited by that. Couplin, from William & Mary, had a great showing at his Pro Day.

40 – 4.55
VJ – 41.5
BJ – 11’02
3C – 6.94

He also did 18 reps, which is very impressive for a guy with such long arms. You can see that he’s got straight line speed, agility and lower body explosion. That’s NFL size and athleticism.

Couplin was a big hitter at W&M. You’ll see strength, power and explosive ability in his highlight video.

Watch a game video and you get more of the whole picture.

You see his physical potential there, but also some issues. There is some hesitation on certain plays which makes you wonder how quickly he’s able to process what he sees. I didn’t see anything that would make him look instinctive, which is a huge trait at Safety.

I’m glad the Eagles took a chance on him. Couplin has NFL size and athleticism. Some of those highlights are really impressive. It is worth bringing this guy in to look at him. He’ll be on the roster heading into the offseason so the Eagles will have time to teach and develop him.

More than a few people saw this move as a sign that the Eagles aren’t happy with Ed Reynolds. That isn’t necessarily true. As Chip Kelly pointed out in his PC today, the only way to add a player from someone else’s PS is to put them on your active roster. If the Eagles wanted to add Couplin for the offseason and future development, they had to put him on the roster. That was the only choice. Kelly’s explanation does make sense.

The flip side is that if Reynolds had been more impressive to this point, maybe the Eagles wouldn’t be looking for a Safety.

I see Couplin as being similar to Earl Wolff. I think this move is more about him. They have similar builds and skill-sets. We have no idea if Wolff is going to be part of this team in 2015. Couplin offers some insurance. He spent time with Buffalo and Detroit this year, playing in 8 games for the Lions. That gives him a bit of experience.

The bottom line is that the Eagles need help at Safety. I’m glad they’re looking all over. I don’t know if Couplin will ever be anything more than a STer, but he does at least have some special traits. Take a chance on that guy.

As for Reynolds, I don’t know what the Eagles think about him. They say all the right things, but that’s the Kelly way. I do think there is some wisdom in keeping him on the PS for now. He’s not going to be as good a STer as Chris Maragos or Chris Prosinski. He’s not going to be a starting DB. Keep him off the field and let him develop. I’ve paid attention to some young Safeties in recent games and many of these guys are just awful. They were thrown into the fire and you can see them developing bad habits.

Let Reynolds spend the year learning the scheme inside-out. Let him practice and get a feel for NFL speed. Let him have a full offseason to get ready. Put him in the best position to succeed.  If he’s not showing us anything by next summer, then he might one and done. I can’t say I’m a big believer in Reynolds, but the coaches loved him. I hope I’m wrong and they’re right.

* * * * *

Couplin does seem like he’ll fit the culture here.

* * * * *

The other benefit to this move is that it should allow Jaylen Watkins to focus more on CB, where I think his future is.


Roster Move Coming

Posted: December 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

The Eagles cut CB Roc Carmichael today. One possible reason…

The Eagles have the main 3 receivers and also Jeff Maehl and Brad Smith. They don’t need a WR, but it might not hurt to have one available. Will Murphy and Quron Pratt are on the practice squad.

The Saints let go of Joe Morgan today. The Eagles might love his potential, but the Saints got sick of his issues so they cut him. Doesn’t exactly sound like a good fit for Chip Kelly’s culture. I’m not sure who else is out there that the Eagles might like.

If they don’t go for a WR, maybe they target a KOR. Huff had those duties recently. Chris Polk had them previously but has also been banged up. Stay tuned.

* * * * *

Jake Knott was added to the Dolphins roster. Good for him.

* * * * *

Did you realize that Jeremy Maclin has better numbers than Dez Bryant?

Mac – 74-1109-10

Dez – 73-1034-10

There is no question that Dez is the superior player. Mac is a good receiver, but he’s not a player that can just overwhelm defenders. He’s not going to take over games like Dez can.

I just found it interesting that Mac has the better stats this year, even if just by a nod.

* * * * *

I was in the car today when an NFL reporter was on the radio talking about how Jay Gruden rips RG3 so openly. To this guy, that meant that RG3 was done in D.C. Snyder would not have allowed that in the past. And it is amazing that the first year coach is doing that. No matter what he thinks of RG3, coaches rarely air dirty laundry in the media.

This got me to thinking about the Eagles. Riley Cooper has the complete support of his coaches despite less than great play this year. Forget what Coop thinks, what do free agents think. They see a player having a so-so year and getting total support from his coach. They also see Gruden ripping his young QB who got hurt on the field. Is that a coach players will want to play for?

There is something to be said for honesty from coaches, but I prefer when they protect their players and keep criticism in-house. Bill Walsh wrote about that in his great book. Andy Reid did it for years. Kelly has done it at Oregon and here. There’s just nothing to gain from ripping your players.

* * * * *

Bradley Fletcher leads the NFL in passes defensed with 21. This is good and bad at the same time. It is bad because it shows how often teams target him. A ton of throws come his way. The good side of it is that Fletcher is close enough to the receiver to get his hands on the ball on a regular basis and break up 1.5 passes a game.

I really like Fletcher for his effort and competitiveness, but he’s just not a good starting CB.


Appreciating Howie

Posted: December 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 196 Comments »

The other day I was doing some research for an article and I was looking around the state of some NFL teams. There are some teams that are a complete mess. Others only a partial mess.

* David Caldwell and Gus Bradley have been in Jacksonville for 2 years, but it still feels like that team is light years from being good.

* The Titans were 9-7 in 2011. Now they are a dumpster fire.

* The Skins remain an organization with huge problems, on and off the field.

* The Saints have been a power since 2006, but have slipped to 5-8 and now have serious cap issues ahead of them.

* The Giants are lacking in talent all over the roster.

* Carolina went 12-4 last year and then inexplicably decided to rebuild their OL and WR corps at the same time, but with adding minimal resources. How do you treat a franchise QB like that? Say what you want about Andy Reid not giving Donovan McNabb elite receivers, but he always had a good OL.

* Tampa Bay has some serious individual talent, but also some huge holes on the roster.

The Eagles had an awful seasons in 1998 and 2012. Both times there were a mixture of issues. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Injuries. Coaching disasters. Underachieving stars.

Tom Modrak was hired to run the Eagles after that disaster in ’98. The first key thing he did was to self-scout and identify which players should be kept around. The ’98 team was dysfunctional and just because a guy was talented didn’t mean you necessarily wanted to keep him around. You also had to see which players had shown flashes of talent, but could really grow with better coaching. Modrak made the right decisions and laid the groundwork for the Andy Reid era. Because of the Ray Rhodes style of team building (lots of short contracts and veteran players), the roster still needed a major overhaul. But there was a foundation in place.

2012 presented a challenge to Howie Roseman. Reid had to go, but was more than that needed? Did the Eagles need to be blown up?

Roseman didn’t panic. He went out and found the best coach he could, Chip Kelly. It took some time, but Kelly eventually took the job. Some executives would have talked about a complete overhaul of the roster. Roseman saw talent in place and knew that 2012 was somewhat of an anomaly. The Eagles didn’t have 4-12 talent. They played like it that year, but the right coaching staff could solve many problems. Roseman was able to work on upgrading the roster where it needed help.

One of the hidden keys to success was having some patience. I don’t know if Kelly or Roseman is more to credit here. Guys like Brandon Graham, Nate Allen and Casey Matthews could have been cut immediately, as a sign that “Things are gonna change around here!” Instead, they were given a chance to show if they could contribute.

Older players who didn’t fit the scheme or culture were shown the door. Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Darryl Tapp and Nnamdi Asomugha were let go. Guys like Trent Cole and Todd Herremans were kept around.

Roseman and Kelly have the Eagles off to a 9-4 start this year. And this isn’t some dream season where everything has fallen into place. The starting QB is out. MLB DeMeco Ryans is done for the year. The OL has been constantly changing due to injury. The Eagles have the right mixture of talent and character to overcome adversity and keep winning. The team should continue to improve as the players get more experience in Kelly’s schemes and the roster is adjusted to find the right players for his schemes.

Things haven’t been perfect. The Eagles patience with Danny Watkins and Curtis Marsh didn’t pay off. Nor with Alex Henery. The team missed in free agency with Isaac Sopoaga and Patrick Chung. And the QB position continues to be an issue. Michael Vick wasn’t the answer. Mark Sanchez wasn’t the answer. Matt Barkley hasn’t been good enough to even challenge for playing time. Nick Foles had one magical year and one average one. We’re still not sure what to make of him. If Foles isn’t the answer, Roseman must look for a QB who can be the answer.

Roseman has yet to see the Eagles win a playoff game with him at the helm, let alone make a strong push for a championship. Winning records and division titles are nice, but Eagles fans want more than that.

Still, it feels good to know that the Eagles were able to bounce back so quickly from hitting rock bottom. When things fall apart like they did in 2012, there is no guarantee you’ll get that turned around quickly. The Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999. The Rams haven’t had a winning record since 2003. I don’t know how I would deal with being an Eagles fan and having to live through a period like that.

* * * * *

Roseman has made some good moves in recent years.

* 2012 draft – Cox, Kendricks, Curry, Boykin, Foles, B. Brown

* 2013 draft – Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz

* trade for Darren Sproles

* trade for Cody Parkey

* signing Connor Barwin

* signing Malcolm Jenkins

* signing STers Braman, Maragos, Prosinski

* signing Mark Sanchez (at very least, a good backup QB)

* * * * *

Tim McManus did write in a recent article that the relationship between Roseman and Kelly has “cooled”. I haven’t heard that, but McManus has excellent sources and isn’t the type to just throw stuff out there. I trust him.

Could just be egos. Powerful men are known to have them.

Maybe they disagreed on DeSean Jackson, drafting Marcus Smith or some other noteworthy move.

We don’t need them to be best friends. We need them to get along and keep the team headed in the right direction. It has always seemed to me that Howie does a good job of finding what his coach wants. The 2011 team was built to “win now” after coming off the wild 2010 season. The 2012 team was younger. Then Kelly came in and wanted guys for his 2-gap 3-4 defense. Kelly went and found them. Howie seems pretty flexible. Other GMs can be more adamant about player types and what a team absolutely needs.


Life of Riley

Posted: December 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 113 Comments »

Riley Cooper played his way from pariah to legit starting wide receiver in 2013. He and Nick Foles had excellent chemistry and Coop averaged 17.8 yards per catch. He had 8 TD grabs. The Eagles signed him to a good-sized contract in the offseason and life was all hunky dory.

But then the 2014 season began.

Things have not gone so smoothly this year. He started slow, going 4-29 in the opener. Then he was 1-8 in the next game. Coop got going in SF, with 6-54. But he dropped the winning TD and that put him back in the spotlight. His big game of the year was 5-88 at Arizona. The lone TD was an impressive catch on a fade pass vs STL.

Cooper has blocked well. He has become a good short receiver. In recent weeks he’s caught short passes over the middle that helped move the chains or set up 3rd/short situations. Chip Kelly has defended Coop all year and really stuck up for him today. He mentioned that Coop caught 47 passes last year and is already at 46 this season. Kelly noted that Coop only has 2 drops. Kelly said the big plays have gone away as more and more opponents have played zone. This is when DBs generally play back and keep things in front of them.

There has been a lot of mis-communication between Coop and Mark Sanchez. They rarely seem to be on the same page. I don’t know who is at fault and I don’t have a good explanation for this.

I can’t think of another player that Kelly has defended so aggressively. He seems to really like Coop. There is no denying that Coop is a good blocker. He is a big WR that will catch the ball in traffic. Kelly likes big WRs. But just how valuable is a guy who is 46-470-1? What is his future?

The Eagles love Jordan Matthews. They love Jeremy Maclin, although they have to re-sign him. Coop is due good money next year. You’d think the Eagles would re-work his deal at the very least. Maybe they just cut him. We’ll find out if Kelly really likes him or is just defending one of his players because that’s what coaches do. The Eagles could spend another high pick on a WR or they could add one in free agency. It wouldn’t seem to be that hard to upgrade on Coop. Or maybe Kelly thinks 2015 will be different.

I know the media isn’t big on Coop. Plenty of fans can’t stand him. I’m sure there are a few players who aren’t too keen on him. I’m pretty ambivalent. I do like having a big WR and a good blocker, but Coop has definitely not impressed this year.

The x-factor in all of this is Matthews. He is 56-709-7 this year. Those don’t seem like flukish numbers. He looks like a really good young WR. If he and Maclin combine for 140-150 catches in future seasons, how much of a role does that leave for the other WR? Do you want Coop to be that third guy, at the right price? Do you want an upgrade?

I don’t have any answers. I’m just curious to see how this all plays out. It was fun watching Coop make big plays last year, but he’s been incredibly frustrating this season. I won’t be driving the bus to get him out of town, but I also won’t be crying if this is his final season in Philly.