Insight on the Biggies

Posted: July 18th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

 

It isn’t hard to love the Eagles offensive line. You watch the guys play and see a great combination of skill, attitude and effort. Think of them as the Mean Green Blocking Machine.

O-linemen rarely get much publicity so it can sometimes be hard to get a feel for their personalities. After the Super Bowl parade, there is nothing mysterious about Jason Kelce. We have a pretty good feel for Lane Johnson as well. He’s not shy around the camera or microphone. He also speaks his mind, which is rare for pro athletes. They tend to obsess on playing it safe so as not to offend anyone.

SI put out a great piece on the Eagles O-line, getting all kinds of fun and insightful comments.

The big men have earned the right to beef. Kelce slips in a sly shot at New England over dinner: “The last defense we had seen was Minnesota’s, and we were like, ‘These dudes have got some players.’ Then we see [the Patriots] and we’re like, ‘These dudes have got some . . . coaches.’ ” And Peters, a Dallas native, takes a crack at the division-rival Cowboys: “[People there tell me,] ‘Y’all got lucky.’ I just say, ‘Too bad y’all haven’t been lucky in 20-something years.’ ”

Of course, each of them would rather be on this side, the boisterous heels combatting buttoned-up NFL blue bloods. After all, it’s hard to imagine many other teams embracing a unit that wears dog masks, discourses in drunken F-bombs or, really, shows any semblance of personality whatsoever.

PETERS: Every organization is definitely not like this.

JOHNSON: Speak your mind, you’ll be back on the couch.

BROOKS: Some organizations [are] like robots, man.

JOHNSON: We don’t want to say their names.

Ouch.

The Eagles better not lose to the Patriots any time soon or they will not hear the end of it.

Remember, this group doesn’t just talk a good game. They back it up. Some consider the Eagles the best OL in pro football.

The SI article refers to the group as “The Eagles Brotherhood”. I think the fact they are so close is a big help in their success. These guys genuinely like each other. There is no jealousy about money or status. They get along great and play as a group. Good chemistry is critical to good O-line play.

*****

Look at that protection. Nick Foles had a clean pocket and took advantage of it.

As good as Foles was in the Super Bowl, you could make an interesting argument that the Eagles O-line should have gotten the MVP as a collective unit. They completely dominated the Patriots.

Things were a lot different in the first Super Bowl meeting. The Pats won the line of scrimmage that night. And the game.

I’m glad things changed this time around.

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The 2005 Draft

Posted: July 18th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Things are quiet so let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and take a look at the 2005 Eagles draft. This is my all-time favorite draft class. I absolutely loved this group, even the players who didn’t work out.

I’ll post notes on some of the guys.

1 31 Mike Patterson DT Southern California
2 35 Reggie Brown WR Georgia
2 63 Matt McCoy OLB San Diego State
3 77 Ryan Moats RB Louisiana Tech
4 102 Sean Considine SS Iowa
4 126 Todd Herremans T Saginaw Valley State
5 146 Trent Cole DE Cincinnati
5 172 Scott Young G Brigham Young
6 211 Calvin Armstrong T Washington State
7 247 Keyonta Marshall DT Grand Valley State
7 252 David Bergeron LB Stanford

DT MIKE PATTERSON 

I can’t say enough how much I love watching this kid play. He isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but he has more heart and determination than any DT that I’ve scouted.

Mike played mostly NT for USC. He fires off the ball. Very quick. On one play he launched at the snap and was so quick that the LG barely had time to rise out of his stance before Mike was driving him backwards. The great thing is that he plays hard, but under control. The play was a run to the left. Mike used his long reach to get an arm on the RB and slow him enough that two defenders could shoot in and nail the RB for a loss. Very next play is a pass. Mike shoots to the LG’s outside shoulder. He’s quick enough laterally to get beside the LG before he can block him. He’s then fast enough to run by the G and get pressure on the QB. Went head to head with our own draft pick OG Scott Young. Beat Scott with a hard inside move. Mike saw the run going opposite of where he was. Quickly turned and was able to get in on the tackle. Got tripled team on another play, but battled the whole time.

Mike is not just an effort guy. What makes him special is that he does have long arms and he uses them well. He’s got a very good swim move. He’ll use a spin move. You can tell he’s a former wrestler by the way he uses his hands. Keeps the OL from getting to his body. One of his best assets is his great awareness. Locates the ball quickly and immediately goes into pursuit. Effective on stunts and loops because he runs well. Good tackler.

Old Notes:

* My favorite of the top DTs. Undersized at only 5115, 290. Has played NT and DT. Plays as hard as any other player in the nation. Makes tackles all over the field. Great effort. Won’t give up on a play. Fought through regular double teams. Quick and fast. He can be effective as the NT and clog things up or he can line up in a 3 technique and rush the passer. Moves well laterally as well as upfield. Uses his hands to really fight the OL. Has a wrestling background and it shows. Very consistent. Double digit TFLs and 5 or more sacks the last 3 years. Low Wonderlic score is a bit of a concern, but plays smart.

* Mike is disruptive. He gets upfield and has a non-stop motor. He had one very impressive play the other day. Mike shot upfield at the snap. The team ran a draw on him. He saw the RB, stopped on a dime, reversed direction, and made the tackle. My kind of DT.

LB MATT MCCOY

Very active. Very productive. Can get off blocks. Good at shooting gaps. Excellent range. Makes plays all over the field. Around the ball a lot. Shows good cover skills. Can handle WRs on crossing routes. Good tackler. Will hang tough inside and make tackles. Stout. Can slip blocks or take on an OL. Can come off the edge and blitz or just attack upfield. Physical with TEs and WRs in coverage. Ran over a G on one play and was able to get in on a sack. Matt is a lot of fun to watch. He just seems to make things happen. He can be an impact player on STs immediately. Jim Johnson said he’s gonna let Matt have a shot at being in the Nickel package. It will not surprise me in the least to see Matt earn that spot and play well. I know a lot of Eagles fans are curious about him because of the struggles of Quinton Caver and Barry Gardner. Caver was an underachiever and Barry was a limited athlete. Matt was an overachiever and also is a good athlete. Plus, he’s a perfect fit for WLB.

Old Notes: I was shocked when this kid declared for the Draft as a Junior. He hadn’t stood out to me as a big enough star to make the move. Did finish 2nd on the team in tackles and had 9.5 TFLs and 3 sacks. Good year, but not headlines material. I popped in the tape and was very impressed.

Matt is very emotional. He is fiery and a trash talker. He flies around on the field. Good speed and quickness. Did well vs OL even though he’s only in the 225 range. Good change of direction ability. Played WLB, but in SDSU’s scheme, that sometimes up him in a position like ILB. Took on Michigan FB Kevin Dudley on one play and stuffed him. Had 18 tkls vs Mich. Light on his feet. Moves very well. Looked good in zone coverage. Came on a blitz from the outside on one play. Saw that it was a draw. As soon as he saw the RB, he quickly turned and made the tackle. Excellent recognition. Fired upfield, but stayed under control. Matt would play WLB in Philly. Could play early on as a nickel LB and STer.

RB RYAN MOATS

Highly underrated prospect. I really believe in this kid’s ability. He can be a starting RB in the NFL. Has more RB potential than Westbrook. Brian is more versatile and a better receiver, but Ryan is a legitimate high quality RB. Averaged 20 carries a game the last two years and can be a workhorse type back. He is not just a scatback.

He has excellent vision. Very good instincts. He can start a play one way and then bounce it the other direction. Seems to feel where the hole is going to be. Runs east-west to get to daylight, but then cuts upfield quickly. Fast enough to get outside, but strong enough to run inside. Very light on his feet. That allows him to change directions quickly. He can make guys miss. What surprises you is how many tackles he breaks. He’s only 5’8, but compounds that by running low. Makes a very hard target for defenders to get a good shot on. Deceptively strong. Guys will hit him, but just slide off him. Great balance. Mainly ran out of a one-back set. He’ll have to adjust to the I-formation and a lead blocker. I watched part of the SMU game. Ryan had a bad ankle. Had a 9 yd TD run that was pretty impressive, especially considering the ankle. Started to the right, but saw defenders in his way. Cut to the left. Bounced it all the way outside. Once he got around the edge defender, turned upfield with an excellent burst. Flew into the endzone. Also had a 72 yd TD in that game. Bounced a short yardage play outside. The FS came over to tackle him, but Ryan accelerated so quickly that the S had no angle on the play. The S actually made the right read and started off well, but Moats extra gear got him upfield and took away the angle. While he isn’t tall, he does have a solid build. Has muscular lower legs and good arms. Did 19 reps at the Combine. I didn’t get to see him catch many passes, but he looked very natural on the couple I saw. Should be ideal on screen passes. Inconsistent as a pass blocker. Made one outstanding play where he cut a blitzer and got the guy on the ground. Did struggle with trying to block a DE. Gave okay effort, but has to sustain the block longer than he did. Has a good stiff arm. Most of the big plays I saw came to the left side. I very much like his demeanor. Doesn’t go crazy when he scores a TD. Celebrates for a second, but nothing flashy. Hands the ball to the ref and heads for the sideline. When you see him on the sideline, he seems to be focused on the game. Talks to the coaches a lot.

He returned KO’s a bit as a Freshman, but has the skills to be an outstanding KOR.

I know some think his level of competition is a concern. Not me. La Tech plays a very tough non-conference schedule. This year alone he faced Tennessee, Miami, and Auburn. He ran for 178 yds in those games combined. Ran for 124 yds vs LSU as a Soph. He also got to play in the East-West Shrine Game and played well.

My only concern is that he is too willing to take a running play and bounce it outside. That is fine at La Tech, but won’t consistently work in the NFL. Ryan never had the luxury of working behind a strong OL, so he may be more of a hit-the-hole guy in the NFL. Doesn’t have great speed, but he does have a good burst.

Old Notes:

* He is the real deal. This kid has some incredible talent. He reminds me of Quentin Griffin, only taller. Strong kid. Good burst. Very good balance. He made one incredible run for a 52 yd (?) TD. He’s what I call a “hips guy”. Moats has these incredible swivel hips.

* Moats really surprised me. I only really watched him in one game, but he made a strong impression. You hear about small schools guys putting up big numbers. You see some of them and they’re productive, but nothing special. I watched one of his runs and it reminded me of Barry friggin Sanders. He’s got a similar build, but not the huge legs/lower body. Ryan finishes his runs. He shows good vision. Nice speed and quickness. Can really make guys miss.

OT TODD HERREMANS

Interesting RT prospect. A lot of people don’t remember this, but Jon Runyan was a 4th Rd pick himself. He was 6’7, 310 and ran in the 5.25 range. We can only hope that Todd develops into the kind of player Runyan became. Todd has a similar description to Jon’s when he came out. Good run blocker. Needs some work on pass protection. Herremans has good feet. He moves well and does a good job of keeping his feet active. Bends his knees, but needs to be more consistent about it. Can mirror DEs. Does have trouble with inside moves. That’s something that needs work. Does a good job of extending his arms to keep DL from getting to his body. Will ride a DE wide of the QB. Shows a feisty side. Caught a DE off balance and slung him to the ground. Does a good job of blocking LBs in the run game. Not likely to see much playing time this year. Has the raw physical ability to be an NFL RT. Should get good coaching from Juan Castillo and will be given time to develop.

6’6, 321…5.13 in the 40

Son of a HS Coach. Played basketball and baseball for 4 years in HS. 2 time all conference. Started 40 of 48 college games.

Old Notes: We’ve been mentioned as a team interested in Todd. Some projections have said that he could go as high as 3rd Rd. I’m thinking more in the 5th.

Cactus Bowl Notes: I saw him in a Div. II all star game. Played RT and LT. Didn’t look comfortable at LT. Did look right at home at RT. Comes off the ball very well. Very good job of getting to the 2nd level and taking out LBs. I’ve read he has “great feet”. Can’t say I saw that. Good feet. He needs work at handling edge rushers. Lots of upside.

DE TRENT COLE

Goes about 6’2, 245. NFL.com lists him at 257, but I’m not so sure about that. Needs to play DE no matter what. Could play LB, but Trent is a pass rusher. Looks athletic. More quick than fast. Can explode off the ball. Does a good job of using arms to get into the OL and keep some separation. Has long arms. Hustles. Knocked over the LT on one play by exploding at the snap and getting into him before the T could get set. Can shed blocks. Makes plays in the backfield, whether on the RB or QB. Disruptive. Has good closing speed in getting to the QB. Good effort pursuing plays, but lacks the pure speed to be special in that regard. He’ll battle Jamaal Green for the #5 DE spot. I tend to think Cole will get the job. Could develop into a solid rotational DE.

Old Notes: I was in the camp of moving him to LB, but the more I watched this kid, the more I realized he needs to be a pass rusher. He could be 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE, but he needs to be a pass rusher. He’s not big enough to start in a 4-3, but as Robert Mathis of the Colts has proved, there is great value in having an undersized guy coming off the edge in passing situations. Looks very quick. Flew by LT on one play. OK in space.

Senior Bowl Notes: Looked to me like all of his snaps came at OLB. Inconsistent game. Made one nice tackle in space, then whiffed on Ced Houston. Rebounded to bring down a TE on the outside. Seemed a bit upright, but that has to be due to playing a fairly new position.

SUMMARY

Great class. The Eagles didn’t nail every pick, but they got a ton of production from this group.

Boy, did I love Ryan Moats or what. And that write-up on McCoy doesn’t come close to expressing how much I loved that pick. Drives me nuts that neither of those guys panned out. It wasn’t so much talent with them as it was not being ready for pro football. I need to write something about draft failures.

Mike Patterson never became a stud DT, but he was a good starter for seven years. He was part of a Top 5 defense and a couple of Top 10 groups. Good pick. Patterson is the kind of pro football player that is forgotten too quickly.

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RB by Committee

Posted: July 16th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso in one of the most lopsided deals in recent NFL history. McCoy has been a star for Buffalo and remains one of the best backs in the league. The Eagles couldn’t get rid of Alonso fast enough.

While that deal seems disastrous on the surface, the Eagles still benefited from it.

Howie Roseman pulled off a major coup when he was able to use Alonso in a deal with Miami to move up from the 13th pick in the 2016 draft to the 8th overall pick. Roseman then was able to make the final move up to the second overall slot, where he took some D2 QB from Montana State or something like that.

Beyond that, dealing McCoy opened up cap room that the Eagles could use elsewhere. And that was a good thing.

Star RBs with big salaries don’t have a habit of winning Super Bowls in recent years. It would certainly appear that the smart move is to load up on mid-level veterans and young RBs. Then use the RB by Committee (RBBC) approach. That gives you a lot of versatility at the position. It also lets you focus money on linemen or cover guys or pass catchers.

I’d love to tell you the Eagles built their team intentionally around being cheap at RB, but that wouldn’t exactly be true.

Before moving up to the second pick, the team at least entertained the idea of drafting Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Once they were able to get high enough, they went for the QB.

In 2017 the Eagles tried to move up in the 2nd round to draft Dalvin Cook. That didn’t work out.

This past spring, the team showed interest in several RBs who could have been targets in the late 1st or early 2nd round. That didn’t work out.

The Eagles may not have intentionally gone RBBC, but it certainly worked out for them last year. It will be interesting to study what happens at RB over the next year. The first question is how the team will use Jay Ajayi this season. He never had more than 18 carries in a game for the Eagles. With LeGarrette Blount out of the picture, will that change?

Jimmy Bama sees Ajayi getting more work.

With one year left on his rookie contract, Ajayi will be looking to make good money in free agency next offseason, so this could be his final year with the team. As such, there’s a good chance the Eagles will look to get their money’s worth out of him this season, giving him a much higher workload than he had a year ago. That should be fine with Ajayi, who will want his stats to look good heading into a contract year.

It really does make sense for both parties.

The other thing to watch with the Eagles is what they do next spring. The team will have a lot of draft picks. They can aggressively go after a RB if they really want one. If they let Ajayi walk, they could replace him with a mid-round pick or a mid-level veteran. Or both.

The Steelers have a star RB in Le’Veon Bell. That’s a good thing. They can’t seem to work out a long-term deal with him and that’s a bad thing. Or maybe not. Based on the chart above, the smart play might be to let him walk and then hope for a solid comp pick the next year. Still, there is something weird about developing a star player and then letting him leave.

The Eagles believe in analytics. Howie Roseman believes in studying trends and patterns. Will they follow the trend or start one of their own?

Or will Matt Jones come out of nowhere to run for 1,200 yards and completely confuse the situation.

RB is one position where you really don’t know what’s going to happen.

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Complacency

Posted: July 16th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Ben McAdoo recently said that the Eagles big issue was going to be their ability to handle success. Doug Pederson was asked about this and had a solid answer. Dave Zangaro has a piece up with a long answer. He’s part of what Pederson said.

I think there’s a point there. I mean, quite honestly, complacency can set in. You can skip an OTA, you can maybe skip a workout or whatever. But what I saw from our players was not that. Our players showed up for OTAs, they spent time getting themselves ready.

Pederson is acknowledging the potential issue and has made plans on how to deal with it. That’s all he can do right now.

Complacency can kill a team. It helped to destroy the 2005 Eagles. Everyone seemed to focus on “me” and not “we”.

One of the keys to the 2004 season was the great play of the young secondary. CB Lito Sheppard and S Michael Lewis both made the Pro Bowl. That, and going to the Super Bowl, got into their heads. Neither player was ever the same after 2004. They struggled in 2005 and gave up too many big plays.

Corey Simon focused on his contract. The Eagles couldn’t re-sign him and couldn’t work out a trade for him (that Simon would agree to). They ended up letting him just walk away in free agency. Derrick Burgess, a playoff hero from 2004, walked away in free agency. I don’t know if Joe Banner was feeling cocky from the 2004 success, but to lose a pair of key DL and get nothing back from them…that really hurt.

Ike Reese, a key leader and role player, left in free agency. Atlanta told him he’d have a chance to start. He didn’t. Reese remained a backup and STer for them.

Most of all, TO went TO. He demanded more money. The Eagles didn’t like how he went about that at all. Then TO went into cancer mode and destroyed the team internally. He openly questioned Donovan McNabb, forcing players to choose sides. Are you Team TO or Team Donovan? TO was openly disrespectful to the coaches. He made everyone uncomfortable. You’re not going to win a lot when you have a toxic locker room atmosphere.

I don’t blame the free agents for leaving for more money or better opportunities, but it is interesting to see how quickly everyone focused on themselves and not trying to stay as part of a winning team. That fell apart so fast.

And the Eagles had won from 2000-2004. They understood success. That team just didn’t handle it well.

Think about Nick Foles. He could have pressured the Eagles to deal him. Instead, he’s fine with staying here another year. That is world’s different than the 2005 group. Veterans like Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace signed reasonable deals because they wanted to come be part of this.

The current Eagles have better leadership than the 2005 team. Pederson has a better feel for his players than Reid did. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are natural leaders. Jason Peters is…well Jason Peters. Malcolm Jenkins is a terrific leader. Chris Long is a natural leader. I think the current coaching staff and veteran players will keep this team focused and on track.

Long has now won back-to-back Super Bowls. Jenkins just won the second Super Bowl of his career. Haloti Ngata was with the Ravens when they won in 2012. Corey Nelson was a backup on the 2015 Broncos, who won it all. Chris Maragos was with Seattle when they won in 2013. These players know what it is like to be a champion and how that affects individual players and teams.

We’ll have to wait and see how things play out for this team, but it sure doesn’t feel like complacency is going to be the biggest problem. Injuries or a tougher schedule or having everyone give you their best…those are things that worry me more than complacency.

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Loving the Eagles Lines

Posted: July 14th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Every NFC East team has won a Super Bowl. The teams that won titles all had one thing in common: good play by the offensive and defensive lines. That was certainly true of the Eagles in 2017. The OL was outstanding the DL was arguably the most feared group in the league.

PFF had some praise for the Eagles OL. They had the Eagles rated as the league’s top OL heading into 2017. They rated the line as the best for the 2017 season and now have the Eagles at the top of their 2018 preseason rankings.

There is a little projection here as we’re assuming nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters will return to form after tearing his ACL and MCL in October of last year. At age 36, Peters is no shoe-in to do so. If he does though, the Eagles bring back the league’s best tackle tandem along with a top-five center in Jason Kelce and top-10 guard in Brandon Brooks.

Stefen Wisniewski is the only player who isn’t in the Top 10 in the league at his position. That’s pretty impressive. Wiz has developed into a good starter. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a Pro Bowl player, but he’s coming off the best year of his career and it will be interesting to see how he plays in 2018.

There won’t be any mysteries this year. Isaac Seumalo was the projected LG last summer. That didn’t work out and Wiz took over as the starter in Game 3 of the regular season. Continuity is a big part of OL success. Getting Peters back and having Wiz start from the get-go should help the Eagles line to play at a high level.

*****

Now for the fellas on the other side of the ball…

It is so much fun to watch those guys in action.

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote a piece about the deepest position groups in the league. The Eagles DL came in as the deepest group.

1) Philadelphia Eagles defensive line: Should we throw in the offensive line, as well? The Eagles dominated in the trenches en route to the Super Bowl LII title, pushing teams around on offense and sending waves of pass rushers on defense. While reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald of the Rams is the cream of the crop, Philadelphia’s earth-moving Fletcher Cox isn’t far behind among interior linemen.

Cox has plenty of help in the form of Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham, run-stuffer Tim Jernigan, veteran Chris Long and second-year edge rusher Derek Barnett. To that impressive quartet, Philadelphia has added three-time Pro Bowler Michael Bennett and former All-Pro Haloti Ngata to go with athletic fourth-round pick Josh Sweat. Considering the success of coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense, it’s no surprise that other teams have begun copying Philadelphia’s blueprint up front.

Win the line of scrimmage and you will win games.

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