Football (Kinda) is Back!!!

Posted: August 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 181 Comments »

Are you excited? We’re going to see the debut of Isaac Seumalo tonight!!! And the dude from South Dakota or wherever.

I have a love-hate relationship with preseason football. I love it because I’ve gone so long without football and there are so many new faces to watch. I hate it because deciphering what is real and what isn’t, what matters and what doesn’t is next to impossible. Also, there is going to be some incredibly sloppy football. That can be rough even for the bravest of souls.

Aside from the obvious (Wentz, etc.), who am I watching? Here are a few names.

Matt Tobin – Is he really reborn? Has the crappy RG really turned into a solid LT? He has looked good at LT in the past, but that was with backups. Tonight he will be a starter. We may not see a lot of him, but I’m curious to see how he does.

Trey Burton – The hype on Burton has been huge this summer. I’m excited to see what he can do. I hope the Eagles throw him the ball a time or two.

Stefen Wisniewski – Where’s Wiz? That’s the first question. Will he be the backup RG or LG? Or Center? Once I find him, I have to figure out how he’s doing. I had my doubts when the Eagles signed him, but by all accounts, he has played well this summer.

Myke Tavarres – WLB or SAM? I don’t expect him to look anything like a finished product. I’m watching to see if he flashes big potential or just looks in over his head.

Steven Means – Can he really be the #4 DE for the Eagles? Means has played in preseason games before so he should be ready to roll.

Jalen Mills – I guess the Eagles will play him in the slot and outside. I want to see if Mills will hit and tackle. I’m also curious to see if he’s over-aggressive and gets burned deep.

I don’t think the starters will be on the field much so I don’t expect to learn a lot about Brandon Brooks or Jordan Hicks or Sam Bradford. The next 2 weeks will be far more important for those guys.

The opener is all about backups, third-stringers and even fourth-stringers. These players can open eyes with how they play tonight or cost themselves a job. There is a lot on the line for the bottom half of the Eagles roster.

Here are the inactives from PE.com:

T Jason Peters (quad)

S Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring)

LB Mychal Kendricks (hamstring)

WR Jordan Matthews (knee)

RB Wendell Smallwood (quad)

DE Marcus Smith (concussion)

DT Mike Martin (knee)

CB JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring)

WR Marcus Johnson (quad)

WR Hunter Sharp (Hamstring)

*****

Back to Wentz. I don’t need him to be polished or perfect. I do need to see legit ability. I want him to show me why he was the #2 overall pick. He can make mistakes, but make a big throw or two and then show me the mobility. I’m not greedy. He doesn’t have to look like Aaron Rodgers until next week.

And I will pay a lot of attention to the WRs. We really don’t know what the Eagles have there. Let’s hope the OLs block well so the QBs have time to get the ball out to their guys. It is tough to evaluate receivers if they don’t get good throws coming their way.

*****

And please, please stay healthy.

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Lots of Learning

Posted: August 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 93 Comments »

New schemes. New staff. New players. Rookie head coach. All of this put together means the 2016 Eagles are a mystery. We think we know certain things about the team, but the truth is that we’re constantly learning. I mean, how many people thought Trey Burton would be the star of Training Camp? Who thought 7th round pick Jalen Mills would be outplaying Eric Rowe?

I wrote a piece for PE.com on some of the things we learned in the first 2 weeks of Training Camp.

Obviously what we know now can change quite a bit in the coming weeks. Preseason games bring out the best in some players and will expose others. As noted philosopher Allen Iverson famously pointed out, there is quite a difference in practice and games.

Another factor is whether players can sustain their level of play. Having a good week or couple of weeks is impressive, but players have to show they can stay at the same level for all of August. That builds trust with their teammates and the coaches. That’s how you carve out a role on offense, defense or STs.

With all of the new faces and all of the changes, we’ll be learning about this team all year long.

*****

We learned about WR Deon Long in the first episode of Hard Knocks.

Jeff Fisher made it very clear that players were not to have guests (females) in their rooms. Long was caught with a female guest. Fisher talked to him for a minute about the situation and then told Long he was being released. Guys at the bottom of the roster can’t make dumb mistakes like that. Fisher also wanted to send a message to his team that BS won’t be tolerated. He’s tired of constant mediocrity and is going to push the Rams to quit settling for mediocrity.

Long does have some potential.

He’s not so good that he can do knucklehead things and get away with them.

Long has some RAC ability. He catches the ball away from his body. Shows some toughness and aggressively goes after the ball. He doesn’t have an ideal size/speed combination and isn’t a polished WR. The Eagles aren’t loaded at WR (to put it mildly) so Long has a chance to get the coaches attention if he plays well.

*****

I really enjoyed this interview with QBs coach John DeFilippo. Sometimes Dave Spadaro gets a guest to relax and share some good information. That’s exactly what happened here.

Flip has interesting thoughts on the players and offers good insight what the coaches are looking for from them.

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Lane Johnson Suspended?

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 88 Comments »

Today we got one of those stories you don’t know what to make of.

This created a media frenzy, with everyone trying to get to the bottom of the story. Then Johnson told reporters that nothing was going on, making this seem like a false report.

And then.

Then we got this news.

How’s that for a crazy afternoon?

First, let’s hope Johnson isn’t suspended. He is an important player and the Eagles need him up front. Also, you want to believe that he and his people were thorough enough with checking out supplements that they weren’t taking any chances with suspension. Then again, we’ve seen other players have odd issues over the years. Some got suspended, while others fought successfully against the league.

One thing worth nothing…

That makes me feel better about the situation. This isn’t Johnson trying to get by with something he already got busted for. This is a different issue. Similar problem, but different circumstances.

If Johnson is suspended, it will hurt the Eagles. I would think Dennis Kelly would take over at RT. He’s started there before and has been the backup there this spring and summer. I think Kelly could be a functional RT. He showed some promise last year when he practiced all week and then got on the field. When he entered a game in the middle of the contest, he struggled. Kelly started several games at RT in 2012, when some guy named Doug Pederson was a young coach on the Eagles staff.

The Eagles could move Allen Barbre or Matt Tobin out to RT. Barbre was slated to be the starting RT in 2014, but he got hurt in the season opener. Tobin appears to be the #3 OT for now, but I think he’s substantially better on the left side. Moving Kelly makes the most sense to me. That also limits the shifting you have to do. Stability up front is huge. Keep guys where they are used to playing for best results.

This offense doesn’t feature great skill players. One of the keys to the Eagles moving the ball and scoring points was going to be improved O-line play. If Johnson is suspended, that is going to make life that much harder on Sam Bradford and his supporting cast.

If Johnson is suspended, there are two “positive” angles. First, this isn’t happening in a year where the Eagles are likely to be contenders. If there is a time for this to happen, 2016 is it. Also, this would force the Eagles to play a young OL somewhere (depending on what lineup they chose). This is the time to find out who can play and who can’t. You wouldn’t see a finished product, but you would get an idea of who could be part of the future.

Injuries put rookie Todd Herremans on the field in 2005. He was very up and down. He was playing mostly LT. He then moved to LG in 2006 and became part of an outstanding OL. That first season may have been painful for those wanting an immediate payoff, but it helped the Eagles to know Herremans had NFL talent and belonged on the field. He then started the next 9 seasons.

Let’s hope this proves to be much ado about nothing, but based on how strict the NFL tends to be on matters like this and how stubborn the league is in general, it doesn’t feel like there will be a happy ending.

*****

Interesting. They need someone behind Jordan Hicks. We thought Stephen Tulloch would make sense. I just wonder if he was prepared to come here and possibly sit.

Make sure to check out other MLBs/ILBs this weekend when you watch preseason games. Might be seeing a future Eagle.

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The First Depth Chart

Posted: August 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 99 Comments »

The Eagles play on Thursday night so they had to release the first depth chart of the season.

As Jeff points out, this was done by the PR staff and not the coaches. Now, that said, the PR staff has been watching practices and is bound to hear some things in the building. Don’t totally dismiss this just because it wasn’t officially done by the coaching staff.

Let’s talk about what sticks out.

Reuben Randle is listed as a starting WR over Chris Givens or Josh Huff. None of the trio has been so good that they locked up a starting gig alongside Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. We don’t know for a fact Randle will get the nod over the others, but it is interesting to see him listed there for now.

Stefen Wisniewski is listed as the backup at C and RG. Interesting. Has he been so good they felt he had to be listed at both spots or have none of the third string C/OG’s played well enough to be listed as a second stringer? I’m curious to see where Wiz lines up initially. I don’t feel great about OG so I’d prefer him there, but the Eagles may feel differently.

The Eagles clearly like Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham at a similar level. They are essentially listed as co-starters (or should that be tri-starters?). It doesn’t matter who starts. The key will be watching how the snaps are divided. Is there a big drop-off from the starters to the third guy? Alex McCallister and Marcus Smith are listed as the top backups. I actually think Bryan Braman and Steven Means should be listed ahead of them. We’ll see what happens on Thursday evening.

CB is kinda wild. Ron Brooks is listed as a starter. Eric Rowe is listed as a third teamer. And JaCorey Shepherd is on the fourth team. Last summer Shepherd had a real chance to be the team’s nickelback. Right now he might be on the roster bubble. You wonder what is up with his knee. Is he all the way back? Some of you are worried about Rowe. Should he move to S? Can he play NB if needed there? The Eagles still love his upside at CB. He’s stay there for now. He could play S, as he did for most of his career at Utah. I don’t think he could play NB in the NFL.

I’m also curious about the OLBs. I want to see if Quinten Gause plays weak or strong LB. The same is true for Myke Tavarres. We know the starters, but the backups are still a mystery. Who can play? Where will they play?

Just because some people are listed at a given spot doesn’t mean the team feels strongly about that player. Last year on the opening depth chart the backup RG was John Moffitt, who didn’t make the team. Rookie Jordan Hicks was behind Brad Jones. Earl Wolff was the top backup at S. A lot changed in the ensuing weeks. One of Chip Kelly’s sayings that really was true…the players set the depth chart. The coaches put something together based on the offseason, but what happens in games and at Training Camp really decides who plays when and where and how long.

*****

Jordan Matthews will be out a couple of weeks. The hope is to have him back for the third preseason game.

This will hurt the effectiveness of the passing game for the next 2 weeks, but could be a bit of a blessing in disguise. There will be extra reps for the young receivers, something that can be invaluable when trying to earn a starting job or a roster spot.

We know what Matthews can do. Randle, Huff, Givens, TJ Graham, Cayleb Jones, Paul Turner and Marcus Johnson are still mysteries.

*****

In his PC, Doug Pederson offered a lot of praise for LT Matt Tobin. I’m interested to see how he does in the game. I wasn’t sure Tobin would make the team, but he’s played well enough to be the backup at LT. The preseason games will be huge for him. Tobin has to show he deserves a spot. He also has to convince the coaches of how they should use him. Is he active on gamedays? Would you dare put him at LT in a real game?

Speaking of OL, the consensus is that rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai has struggled this spring and summer. Right now, he would be a long shot to even make the team. That’s what the practice squad is for. He’s big and has good feet. This is a guy you work with. He has good upside. Vaitai does have to play well enough in the games to make the team want to keep him around. 5th round picks don’t get several years. They have to show something to the coaches.

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Say You

Posted: August 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 52 Comments »

Rookie OG Isaac Seumalo has been quiet this summer. He missed the OTAs so there wasn’t a huge buzz around him coming into Training Camp. People were curious about how he’d perform. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Seumalo got off to a slow start. He went from Skyping with Jeff Stoutland in the spring to blocking Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan in the summer. Big difference.

Les Bowen has a good piece on the progress Seumalo has made in recent days.

But asking a third-rounder to challenge for a starting spot at guard really doesn’t seem too outrageous, and maybe it will happen, as Seumalo starts to get his feet under him, both literally and figuratively. Right now he’s running with the second team at left guard, behind 2015 starter Allen Barbre. It doesn’t help that left guard is the only offensive line position Seumalo never started at for Oregon State.

“The biggest thing is balance,” Seumalo said, when asked what Stoutland is working on the most with him. “Pass-protection, that’s what it’s all about. Those little details, to do with your feet and your hands and where your eyes are.”

Stoutland doesn’t always come off as the epitome of patience during drills.

“He’s a man. He coaches us hard . . . but I know he cares for us. I feel in good hands,” Seumalo said. “Sometimes you gotta kinda block out the extra noise and take the coaching, but once you do that – not take things too personal, just know you’ve got to get better.”

Center Jason Kelce said the tools are there for Seumalo to blossom.

“He’s got great fundamentals and things to work with,” Kelce said. “He’s got really good feet. He plays with balance, great hands . . . He’s gotten better and better through camp. You see him shooting his hands better, in better position. He’s starting to understand things. A lot of it comes with just kind of calming down and understanding the situation. Obviously, he wasn’t here through OTAs and all that stuff. As you get more accustomed to the speed of the game and everything, things start to slow down.”

My biggest takeaway from the piece is that Seumalo has the right attitude. He is willing to take tough coaching. He understands that all the yelling and harsh words are simply tools to communicate with and motivate players. Seumalo is a coach’s son, so this isn’t new to him.

The Eagles are set at RG with Brandon Brooks. They still have Allen Barbre as the LG. Stefen Wisniewski has been a pleasant surprise and could challenge for the LG spot. At the least, he appears to be solid depth. Seumalo has a few more weeks to make his case for a move up the depth chart. Preseason games will be a huge opportunity for him.

*****

From Sunday’s practice, here is Jimmy Bama.

Steven Means had another nice day playing with the two’s in place of Marcus Smith, who is out with a concussion. He had a sack, and was otherwise disruptive. After practice, Jim Schwartz said, “Pun intended, he means business.” Schwartz has been critical of players, so when he praises one it means something… or maybe he’s just trying to motivate Smith, which seems like a lost cause at this point. If camp ended today, I’m not sure how the Eagles could justify keeping Smith over Means.

• We haven’t mentioned him much, but Brandon Graham has quietly had a good camp. His pressures are beginning to pile up.

Matt Tobin has filled in for Jason Peters at LT whenever Peters has decided to take it easy, and he has played well. Tackle seems like a much better fit for Tobin, who is quicker than he is strong. Tobin was not good last year at guard. Maybe it’s because he shouldn’t have been playing guard.

• The Eagles defense showed a number of 3-3-5 looks in third and long situations. The offense struggled against it all day.

Interesting point about Schwartz openly praising Steven Means. That young man has gotten everyone’s attention with his consistently good play.

It is sometimes easy to overlook guys like Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham. They’re expected to be disruptive. You focus more on disappointments (Marcus Smith) or an unknown who is playing well (Means). I’m glad both Curry and Graham are making their share of plays. The defense needs those guys to shine if it is going to be a high level unit.

Tobin has always looked more natural at OT, especially at LT. Playing on the left side vs the right side can make a real difference to some players. I don’t know why he seems more comfortable at OT than OG. He wasn’t a 3-year starter at LT or anything like that. We’ll see how he does there on Thursday night.

Jim Johnson used 3-3-5 looks when he wanted to get creative with his Nickel D. That’s when he would put an athletic rusher at MLB (Jevon Kearse, ND Kalu) and have them rush, blitz or cover. Could really be effective at times.

Make sure to read Jimmy’s piece for his informative take on the PK situation. Sounds like Sturgis has a solid lead right now.

*****

Jeff McLane had a couple of good notes from Saturday that I didn’t want to miss.

Jim Schwartz isn’t a dogmatic defensive coordinator. He’s willing to give his players some leeway. For example, several of the defensive ends have occasionally been rushing from a standup position. Connor Barwin, Steven Means and rookieAlex McCalister have been the primary stand-up guys. Barwin and Means were, of course, brought to the Eagles as 3-4 outside linebackers. Barwin is versatile and can rush just as effectively from a three- or four-point stance. But he might have more comfort with standing up. Most defensive ends like to get in a crouch like sprinters so they can explode off the line. Former Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn liked his wide-nine ends to get off from a four-point. Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Smith have been mostly rushing from a three-point stance.

Chip Kelly wasn’t much of a trick play coach. There was the “Swinging Gate” two-point play that failed and a few woeful plays that involved Brad Smith that weren’t quite what you’d call trick plays. Andy Reid loved to have a trick play or two in his game plan. Doug Pederson has worked on several since the spring, although who knows if they’ll ever see the light of day. One worked to perfection today – although it was set up to succeed. Daniel handed off to running back Kenjon Barner, who flipped to the end-around-faking Rueben Randle, who threw back to Daniel, who was running a sideline route the other way. Touchdown. Golf clap.

That first point about DEs and their stance doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it can be to certain players. You have to understand that players are creatures of habit. If they get comfortable with doing something one way, it can become ingrained in their mind that they have to do that. It is smart for the coach to let them use different stances. The point isn’t for everyone to look the same. You want to figure what makes each player perform the best.

Trick plays are a useful tool and it was very surprising how little Chip Kelly used them. It is good to see the Eagles practicing them. The real test will be to see how often Doug Pederson calls them. Also, will he keep them in the playbook when they don’t work ideally the first time they’re used.

*****

That was the update yesterday from Les. We’ll see what happens.

It doesn’t sound like 30 other teams are beating down Tulloch’s door. You wonder if his agent leaked the Eagles note to Schefter to see if that would get another team to be more aggressive.

It would be nice to have Tulloch on the team, but only if he was comfortable as a part-time player. Jordan Hicks needs to be on the field. You could mix Tulloch in here and there. You could certainly use him on short-yardage and goal line situations. And he would be great insurance for Hicks. But Hicks needs to be the starting MLB.

*****

I don’t talk a lot about baseball, but I was really happy to see Ichiro get his 3000th hit over the weekend. He’s had an amazing career, especially when you consider he was 27 when he came to MLB. I saw this note on Twitter and thought it was too good not to share.

Makes me like the guy all the more.

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