More on Mobile

Posted: January 29th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 214 Comments »

Going to the Senior Bowl every year is a great experience. You get to see the players practice. You get to be around them and see some of their personalities. You also get to be around NFL people…coaches, scouts and media types. There really is a lot to take in.

I can’t share every nugget I get down there. I’ll offer hints as best I can, but some stories I’m just not allowed to outright share. With that in mind…

I came away feeling better about Doug Pederson. He’s overly positive in his press conferences, but that’s a public face. He’s realistic about who can play and who can’t.

The Eagles key free agent is DT Bennie Logan. Nobody has a good feel for his future. The Eagles obviously want him back, but can they afford him? I have seen a few free agent lists compiled by smart media types and Bennie hasn’t been a Top 40 free agent on them. Maybe that means he will have a realistic price tag and the Eagles can keep him. You don’t want to develop good young talent and let those guys walk if you can help it.

There is no consensus on whether Alshon Jeffrey will hit free agency or whether the Eagles will pursue him. Really good player, but he’s got a couple of issues and you wonder if he’s worth elite money.

Non-Eagles people think highly of Carson Wentz. He’s got issues to work through, but they love his potential and see him as a franchise QB.

It isn’t lost on people that the Eagles went 5-1 with Lane Johnson, who was the team’s best OL when he played. Having him for a full season will make a big difference.

You can have a depressing debate on who was worse down the stretch, Leodis McKelvin or Nolan Carroll.

The Eagles must figure out slot corner. Malcolm Jenkins needs to stay back at Safety the whole year. Who knew losing Ron Brooks would hurt the defense?

The feeling is that DeSean Jackson won’t get big money as a free agent. Whether that could cause the Eagles to go after him is still unknown.

Dalvin Cook would be a great fit in the Eagles offense, but there are on and off-field concerns with him that could hurt his value.

No one has a clue what the Eagles are going to do for a #3 QB. They could draft one, but this is a weak QB class.

The feeling is that Wiz won’t be returning to the Eagles.

The Eagles need to find 2 starting WRs. You just can’t count on Nelson Agholor or DGB to play substantially better in 2017.

*****

Scott McCloughan, the Skins GM, sat in the stand near me and Jimmy Bama on Thursday. Most coaches and GMs go to the other side, which is only for NFL people. McCloughan is a different kind of guy. He struck up a conversation with a family in front of him. That happened to be the parents of WR Trent Taylor. McCloughan was just trying to be a nice guy.

Later a middle school football team came and sat in the stands. They walked in front of us. McCloughan said hello to the kids and was just trying to be friendly. It was cool to see an NFL executive just being a normal guy.

*****

Kiko Alonso is even weirder and dumber than you think.

*****

I sat behind Jay Glazer on one of the flights down. He believes in reclining for the whole trip. Love Glaze as a reporter, but you don’t want to sit behind that guy in an airplane.

*****

There was a lot of talk about how the coaches ran the practices. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CLE staff, but the Bears were far worse. Chip Kelly would have had a heart attack if he watched all the wasted time by that staff. Terrible.

I spent more time watching CBs and WRs than ever before. That meant less time on OL, DL, RB and LB.

*****

The Brick Pit remains the best barbecue joint in Mobile, if not all of Alabama. My BBQ rankings for the week:

The Brick Pit
Moe’s
The Shed
Saucy Q

Sadly no stop at Dreamland on this trip.

*****

And now your humor for the day.

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Flipping on Flip

Posted: January 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 37 Comments »

Nick Foles posted one of the highest QB ratings in NFL history back in 2013. There were a lot of factors, but the work of QB coach Bill Lazor certainly was one of the things that helped Foles. Lazor was hired by the Dolphins to be their offensive coordinator so Foles got a new QB coach for 2014, Bill Musgrave. Foles didn’t play as well. OL injuries and inconsistent WR play were bigger factors than the coaching, but it probably didn’t help to have a new coach. That was Foles third season in the NFL and he had a different positional coach each year. Stability can be key for the development of young players.

I don’t think that lesson was lost on Jeffrey Lurie.

Jeff McLane has an update on the story that Lurie was the driving force behind the Eagles refusing to let John DeFelippo interview for an offensive coordinator job.

Earlier this month, the New York Jets asked to interview DeFilippo for that very job. Pederson and Roseman, true to their word, signed off on the request. NFL teams can’t block assistants from auditioning for head coaching vacancies, but they can prevent them from interviewing for coordinator positions.

It’s unclear whether DeFilippo would have gotten the Jets job or even wanted it, but he never got an opportunity to toss his hat in the ring. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stepped in and rescinded the original consent, according to four independent NFL sources.

Lurie’s obstruction was first reported by ESPN, but Inquirer sources provided more detail of how the Eagles owner stepped in, and more important, why he pulled rank, as he had never done before.

While the why is obvious (Carson Wentz, duh), Lurie’s blocking of DeFilippo represents his passion – some called it his “obsession” – with making sure the young quarterback has all the tools necessary to thrive. That meant retaining the assistant who played a significant role in Wentz’s rookie season, and that means acquiring skill position talent this offseason.

I have mixed feelings on this. Assistant coaches have to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. When they have a strong reputation and other teams are showing interest, I don’t blame them for looking at promotions.

At the same time, an owner has to answer to his fans. Carson Wentz is the future of the Eagles. If Lurie wants him to succeed, he needs to do everything he can to help Wentz out. Stability on the coaching staff is a big part of that.

McLane brings up the point about Lurie’s move possibly undermining Doug Pederson. It is possible that future coaching candidates will think twice before taking a job with the Eagles. If the Eagles pay well, have a competitive team and coaching stability, I don’t see this being a huge issue. There are only 32 teams. Jobs are hard to come by.

If Lurie is weighing the importance of developing a franchise QB versus possibly losing a positional assistant in the future, I’d say he made the right choice.

*****

McLane also had this note in the piece.

Lurie, per sources familiar with his thinking, is prepared to give Wentz the skill-position players he lacks. It’s little surprise that the Eagles know they need to upgrade at receiver and running back. Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said as much here. The question is to what lengths will they go?

Does that mean going after Alshon Jeffrey?

I’m still not sold that going after him is the wisest move. Jeffrey is very good, but is he worth huge money?

One of the names mentioned in Mobile was Kenny Britt. He was an inconsistent, trouble player early in his career, but seems to have settled down off the field and gotten better on the field. He just had his best season ever, 68-1002-5. Britt is not a great receiver and wouldn’t cost huge money. He would be a major upgrade on the current receivers in place.

You could also then consider adding a young, mid-level player like Robert Woods, Markus Wheaton or Marquise Goodwin as well. Draft a WR in the middle rounds and you’ve got a serious talent infusion at wideout.

No matter what the Eagles do, the key is to not count on one player to fix the situation. The Eagles need multiple pieces at WR. The only reliable player they have right now is Jordan Matthews.

*****

Several WRs played well in the Senior Bowl on Saturday.

Zay Jones was outstanding. He got open, caught the ball really well and made plays. He had 2 TDs taken away, but still finished 6-68-1.

Josh Reynolds also played really well. He was 6-96 and hauled in a long TD.

Fred Ross, who quietly had a good week, was 5-66.

Jones and Reynolds are probably 2nd to 3rd round type WRs. We need to see how they run in Indy. Ross is a notch down.

I did finally get my notes posted on the South’s final day of practice.

I’ll be writing a lot more about the Eagles and the Senior Bowl in the next couple of months. Way too many thoughts to get everything out in one week. Lots of good targets for the Eagles down there.

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News and Notes

Posted: January 27th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 160 Comments »

Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie were at Wednesday’s practice together. They paced the sidelines, seeming to watch a lot of offensive players. On Thursday, it was just Pederson and Roseman. They weren’t together. Howie stayed on the move, while Pederson spent a lot of time on the sideline watching the teams.

Most coaches go sit in the stands. They surround themselves with assistants or scouts or coaching buddies. Pederson seemed more focused on watching the players than just socializing. He did an interview with Alex Flanagan of the NFL Network, but that’s because no one can resist her magical powers.

I’m not trying to make Pederson into a workaholic superhero, but I think it is a good sign that he’s focused on football. Established coaches can relax a bit in Mobile. Doug isn’t established and I think he knows that. He needs to find some talented players and to get his team on the winning track.

*****

Notes from the North team’s Thursday practice are here.

I haven’t had a chance to finish the South team due to traveling. I’ll get them posted as soon as I can.

*****

People continue to ask about Connor Barwin. Could he stay with a pay cut? Could he play LB?

From what I’m hearing, Barwin is only open to a minor pay cut. That’s not happening. Honestly, I don’t think the Eagles have any interest in bringing him back. They love Barwin the person, but after watching him this year, he really needs to play in the 3-4. Barwin is at his best when you can use his versatility.

He won’t play LB for the Eagles. Jim Schwartz doesn’t want a 260-pound SAM. He has Nigel Bradham playing that spot at 6-3, 240. Plus, Bradham had a good season. There is no reason to replace him.

Barwin is as good as gone. Great guy, but he needs to be in the 3-4.

*****

Some people are asking about the Eagles and Temple players. I think the Eagles could like OL Dion Dawkins. He played LT for the Owls, but lacks great feet. He’s more of a OG. I don’t know his value yet but he could be a target.

LB Hasson Reddick is 6-1 1/2, 237. He’s meant to be a 3-4 ILB in the NFL. If he was available late, the Eagles could take a look at him, but I don’t think that will happen. I think 3-4 teams will want him, possibly early.

*****

One interesting point of discussion in Mobile was the future of Jordan Matthews. There is no question that he is the Eagles best WR. He is a good NFL player. But how do you pay him? Matthews is not a weapon. He doesn’t have great hands.

The argument for him is that he’s got 225 catches and 19 TDs in 3 years. That’s good production.

The counter is that those numbers are flawed. He played in Chip’s system for 2 years and that meant extra snaps in every game. He also was the key to the passing game because the team lacked other quality WRs. The QB was going to force the ball to him.

I hope Matthews and his agent have realistic expectations and that something can be worked out. If they want big money, you just can’t pay that to a solid, but less than great player.

It really is critical that the Eagles find talent for the WR position this offseason, for both 2017 and the future.

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Building a Corps

Posted: January 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 128 Comments »

You never who is going to become a stud WR. Antonio Brown wasn’t supposed to be nearly this good when he came out. Julian Edelman was beyond a long shot. Jordy Nelson was well-regarded, but not to the level of player he’s become.

You draft players like that with the idea that they will be part of a WR corps. If they become even more, that’s great. You just can’t count on that.

The Eagles may try to sign Alshon Jeffrey in free agency. Or they may get Mike Williams or Corey Davis in the draft. Those are the only really high level WR targets I know of for now. That doesn’t mean the Eagles have to get one of those guys. They can focus on building a WR corps.

Sterling Sharpe was an elite WR in the early 1990s. Brett Favre loved him. Sharpe suffered a serious neck injury and had to retire. Green Bay won the Super Bowl without him. Their WRs were Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, Don Beebe, Terry Mickens and Desmond Howard. Andre Rison was added during the season in a trade.

Brooks was very good, but not an elite Jerry Rice/Herman Moore/Michael Irvin level of player. Brooks and Freeman were 3rd round picks that developed into key players for the Packers and helped them to win a Super Bowl and almost a second one.

There are no elite receiver prospects here in Mobile, but there are some good players. You can make an argument the Eagles should draft a couple of them to build up the overall set of WRs.

Artavis Scott has played well so far. He is smooth and looks like the kind of guy you could expect to help as a rookie. He is 5-10, 193. That’s the kind of size you would prefer in a slot receiver. The question is whether Scott has enough speed to play outside. He does have 31-inch arms. That helps him to reach for the ball. Scott has good RAC skills. If the Eagles insist on throwing WR screens, at least go get someone who has a chance to make them work.

Josh Reynolds is 6-3, 187, which is a bit smaller than we expected. He started slow in Mobile, but has played well since that. He can really extend away from his body to get the ball. Reynolds is more of a downfield and Red Zone target. He is a long-strider that eats up ground quickly and helps him get by the CB.

Ryan Switzer reminds me a lot of Jamison Crowder, who is playing so well for the Skins. Switzer is an amazing PR. He has 7 career TDs and that would be higher, but teams quit kicking to him. He could be a terrific slot receiver and someone that would be very good on WR screens.

Taywan Taylor is a guy I’m still figuring out. His production is crazy, but he also played at a mid-level school and was the primary offensive weapon. Switzer, Scott and Reynolds were not the best WRs on their college teams. Taylor is 5-11, 198 and has 32-inch arms. I think he can be a starter in the NFL. At the least, he could be a good role player.

The guys listed above are just the South WRs. There are good targets on the North as well.

Cooper Kupp is the name a lot of people are talking about. I think the Eagles will love a lot about his game, but he’s a lesser version of Jordan Matthews from what I’ve seen. I’m not really all that interested in adding a possession receiver.

Zay Jones is a WR that has caught my eye a few times. He might be a starter in the NFL one day. Jones has good hands. He has solid size and is fast enough. He won’t be mistaken for DeSean Jackson any time, but is athletic enough to be somewhat of a playmaker.

Jalen Robinette is another guy that’s a bit of a mystery to me. He is 6-3, 218. That’s great size for a WR. Robinette can run. He has good body control. He’s athletic. The downside is that he never caught more than 43 passes in a season and played in an option attack. That meant lots of wide open deep balls and huge plays. That’s great for highlights, but trying to evaluate just how good he is can be very tricky. Robinette could turn out to be a stud, but there is risk in taking him. And a guy with his size and speed won’t last long in the draft, no matter how raw he might be.

I’m not even talking about the underclassmen here. These are just the guys in the Senior Bowl. The Eagles need to draft at least one WR. They could take a couple and start building up a corps of targets for Carson Wentz to grow with for the next few years.

*****

Howie explained the Taylor Hart move to OT yesterday. The Eagles were really banged up on the OL during the season and needed help in practice. Hart got put at RT. A few defensive players mentioned to the coaches that he was better than they expected.

The coaches talked to Hart to find out if he ever played OT before that. He said that was his primary position in high school and that only Oregon wanted him for DL. The team talked internally and then went to Hart to ask him about moving to the OL. He embraced the change and will work there all this offseason.

It is a long shot that anything comes of this, but it isn’t impossible. Hart has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. He is physical. Just watch his DT play from last summer. He looked really good.

Hart was not going to break into the DL rotation. This way he gets a shot to show what he can do at a spot where it is really hard to find players. This is a chance worth taking, for him and the team.

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Eagles Senior Bowl Update

Posted: January 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 58 Comments »

Busy day here in Mobile. We had 4 hours of practice, plus both Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas spoke to the media. They said plenty of interesting things and I’ll cover them on Thursday and over the weekend. For now I want to concentrate on the Senior Bowl itself.

My practice notes for Wednesday are here:

SOUTH

NORTH

The Eagles talked to the following players after practice:

DE Jordan Willis
DE Keionta Davis

DT Dalvin Tomlinson

WR Taywan Taylor

They have now shown a clear interest in DEs. This is smart for a couple of reasons. First, the Eagles need some DE help. Brandon Graham had a terrific season, but the other starter, Connor Barwin, is going to be traded or released. Vinny Curry will start opposite of Graham in 2017, unless something crazy happens.

I know Curry was disappointing last year. He knows that too. I think injuries affected him all year, but there is no question that he must play better. I know he got a big deal, but Curry has been very disruptive in the past. This isn’t a guy you give up on after one down season. He is a proven performer, just not a proven high-level starter.

The other reason the Eagles are smart to look at DEs is that this class has several guys that are exactly what Jim Schwartz is looking for. He loves guys with length and some size.

Keionta Davis  6-3, 275

Tanoh Kpassagnon  6-7, 280

Daeshon Hall  6-5. 263

Jordan Willis  6-6, 253

Those are the kind of players Schwartz loves to have coming off the edge. They can eat up ground from the Wide-9 alignment and get to the QB in a hurry.

There are actually a lot of players in this class who fit what Schwartz is looking for. Some are developmental projects and others are more of a sure thing. It wouldn’t surprise me for the Eagles to try and add a couple of DEs to the mix.

As for Tomlinson, the Eagles might need DT help if Bennie Logan leaves in free agency. Tomlinson is a good, not great, prospect.

Taylor is a gifted WR. In a way, he is the anti-Agholor.

In the last 2 years, Taylor averaged 17 yards per catch.

He caught 17 TD passes each of the last 2 seasons.

Nelson Agholor wears number 17.

See the connection?

Okay, I’ll grant you that’s a bit of a stretch, but I’ve been sitting in the sun for most of the day and my brain is a little fried. I’ll be thinking more clearly when I get a few PBRs in my system.

Joking aside, there are several WRs I’ve seen in Mobile that I think could help the Eagles. None of these guys looks like a stud, but these players could be part of a good WR corps. I need to study Taylor more to figure out just how much I like him. Zay Jones has been very impressive. Ryan Switzer would be a terrific weapon in the slot. Cooper Kupp is interesting, but as I pointed out in the North notes…he is slow. Don’t look at him as a playmaker.

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