So Far, So Good

Posted: March 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 73 Comments »

The offseason began in January. There have been coaching changes, front office changes, cuts, trades, signings and just about anything else that can happen to a team.

For my PE.com column, I took a look at what Chip Kelly set out to do and how things have gone.

There are 2 big misses: not getting FS Devin McCourty to leave the Patriots and losing Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs. Of course, if they had pulled those moves off, other ones might not have taken place. McCourty would have been huge because that is such a tough position to fill. Maclin would have been good for the sake of continuity.

Obviously judging the offseason centers around how you assess the Sam Bradford trade. If you think this is doomed to fail and a complete waste of time and resources, you are going to be down on the offseason.

I’m keeping an open mind with the Bradford deal. That’s the guy Chip wanted. They talked to the Rams off and on for a month. This wasn’t a casual decision. I’m trusting Chip on that one.

I do like the fact the offense will be more physical and that the defense should be improved.

There are still holes to fill. WR, OL, S and CB still need help. And the draft is about adding overall talent to your roster.

There is no such thing as a perfect offseason. You’ll always come away wishing you could have done something else. The key is to make enough good moves and not to leave any glaring holes.

Remember that moves will take place into early September. Sometimes you can find key answers down the road. Just think about the impact of Cody Parkey, who came here in a trade on August 20. Not every key move happens in early March or on draft weekend.

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I’ve got some interesting stats in the column in regard to Murray vs Shady. I was surprised at the numbers.

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Jeff McLane wrote about Sam Bradford and how he’ll fit in Kelly’s offense. There were some good comments by Jason Kelce.

Bradford has been omnipresent at the NovaCare Complex since the trade and has already begun learning the offense with center Jason Kelce.

“I think he’s a guy that comes off very cerebral, very smart, very quick,” Kelce said. “He’s had a lot of bad luck in his career as far as injuries are concerned. And as far as – and I don’t want to throw any offensive lines under the bus – I think he’s much better now with us.

“I think he has a good chance to be very successful in this offense.”

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A bit more on Mariota. I seem to be confusing some people.

Marcus Mariota is one of the top prospects in this draft. I think he can be a good starting QB. I do not think he is a special prospect that only comes around once every few years. Alex Smith and Andrew Luck both went #1 overall. Luck was a special prospect. Smith was the best QB in a weak group. Big difference.

I think Chip Kelly would love to draft Mariota. He knows how talented the guy is and what a good fit he would be in this system. That said, I think Kelly understands Mariota isn’t special. He’s not someone you sell out to get.

I think Mariota will go in the Top 10. A lot of teams are now showing interest in him. Some of this is pre-draft BS, but not all of it. There are too many teams that need a QB and he is a good one. That said, it is possible he will slide. If Mariota does make it outside the Top 10, I’m sure Kelly will make calls to see what the asking price is to move up. If reasonable, he might go for it. I just think this is a highly unlikely scenario.

If you had a time machine and knew how good Mariota could be, he might be worth selling out to get. But that is the difference in being a player and being a prospect. Players are known (or somewhat known) commodities. Prospects are complete projections. Would you trade 3 1st round picks for Aaron Rodgers? Probably. You know he is a special player. Mariota could be a Hall of Fame talent or a complete bust. I don’t think even Chip Kelly feels strongly enough about him to break the bank (in terms of picks).

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Slowly the Dream Fades Away

Posted: March 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 160 Comments »

Is it time to completely give up on Marcus Mariota as an Eagle? If not, it sure seems the time is drawing closer.

The Bucs and Titans have checked him out. That’s pick #1 and #2. Now the Skins (5th), Jets (6th) and others are taking a long look. The Chargers are interested. The Browns too. Possibly the Rams.

As I thought when all the Mariota talk started months ago, if he is truly a top QB prospect, teams ahead of the Eagles will want him. It would make for a great story to have Mariota get reunited with Chip Kelly, but reality is a great dream killer and that’s what seems to be happening here.

This could all be pre-draft BS, but I think Mariota is too good for none of these teams to have legitimate interest. I don’t think he’s got much of a chance at making it outside the Top 10 and I don’t think the Eagles have much chance at moving up that high to get him. I tend to trust Chip when he says he’s not mortgaging the future to get one player.

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What’s going on at ILB?

The Eagles have:

Mychal Kendricks
Kiko Alonso
DeMeco Ryans
Brad Jones
Najee Goode
Emmanuel Acho
Brandon Hepburn

That is a pretty deep group.

But the team continues to check out ILB prospects aggressively. Could they really add someone else?

It sure seems that way. I can’t get a read on how Kelly feels about Kendricks. We know he loves Ryans and Alonso. He’s said plenty of good things about Kendricks, but did mention durability in regard to him the other day. I would love to see the Eagles extend Kendricks and keep him around.

That said, if they think his asking price is going to be too high, there is something to be said for dealing him now and adding a talented rookie to the mix.

I know the Eagles are improved at ILB. That’s good because it is a key part of the 3-4. I don’t know what the short term and long term plans are. That’s frustrating, but I am definitely curious to see how this all plays out.

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In my recent mock draft I had the Eagles getting CB Eric Rowe in the 4th round. Yeah…that’s not going to happen. He will be going in the 2nd round most likely. There is some chatter that he could even go in the 1st.

Zach is a Seahawks fan/writer/draftnik who focuses on athletic prospects. From a height-weight-speed standpoint, Rowe does make sense in the 1st round. We’ll see what happens. There certainly is a lot of buzz about him right now, and the Eagles are part of that.

Chip stopped by the Utah Pro Day on his way home from the owners meetings.

Cornerback Eric Rowe (6-0 1/8, 203) stood on his numbers from the combine, which were outstanding (he was among the top performers in his position group in every drill). Rowe had a very good pro day workout, justifying Kelly being there (given the Eagles‘ glaring need at the position). The 2014 season was Rowe’s first at cornerback after having played safety prior. He had a slow start to the season due to an injury. However, he’s come alive during the draft season, having a very good combine and pro day.

Rowe certainly fits what the Eagles want to do. He can press. He’s big and tall. Runs well. Will he last to their 2nd round pick? Is he worth 20? Do you move back and then draft him in the late 1st?

There isn’t a ton to see here, but take a look if you want.

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Chip and the Truth

Posted: March 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 334 Comments »

I finally got to see the entire Chip Kelly breakfast talk. For those brave souls with an hour to kill, PE.com has the whole thing posted. I enjoyed it, but I’m one of those wackos that loves listening to football coaches speak.

If you try to compare some of what Chip says to his actions, to what Jeff Lurie said and to other bits of info, you will find some inconsistencies. Sheil Kapadia noted a couple of these in an excellent piece he wrote. Here’s one of them.

6. Kelly and Lurie offered two different stories when discussing the McCoy trade. Lurie said Kelly preferred a different style of runner, a one-cut back who didn’t dance. Kelly said it was purely a financial move to free up cap space.

We’ve been over this before, but believe the owner here. I can understand why Kelly doesn’t want to sound like he’s criticizing McCoy, but the Inquirer reported that the Eagles didn’t approach the running back about redoing his deal.

And in the end, the deal they gave DeMarco Murray is essentially the same over the next three years as the one McCoy was on. The only difference is Murray’s getting $18 million guaranteed, and McCoy was not. In other words, they had more flexibility with the McCoy contract.

Yes, it’s true that McCoy had a bigger cap hit in 2015, but that could have easily been restructured by guaranteeing some of his salary.

Bottom line: Kelly wanted a different style runner, and he wanted Kiko Alonso. That’s why the deal was made, not because of McCoy’s contract.

Kelly had a love-hate relationship with LeSean McCoy for 2 years. Like all of us, Kelly loves the dynamic runs. McCoy makes guys miss better than any RB in a long time. The problem is that McCoy struggled to embrace the 4-yard run. He was always looking to bounce a play outside or to cutback and find wide open space. That led to too many negative runs. (See this great ChipWagon post for some examples of poor decisions)

McCoy also made strange decisions down the field at times. Most notably, he made a cut in the Snow Bowl that turned a 70-yard TD run into a play where Ndamukong Suh caught him from behind and the play only went for 20 yards. That really bugged Kelly. The play worked. The blockers did their part. The offense had a long TD. Instead, a poor read and poor cut turned it into simply a nice gain.

As great as the highlight runs are, there is something about a physical, downhill runner. They are going to have fewer negative plays. They are going to wear down defenders. Good look at a list of Super Bowl winners. I don’t think you’ll see many in recent years where the leading runner’s best quality was elusiveness. I’m not saying you need Earl Campbell, but you want RBs that get behind their pads and attack up the field.

Instead of talking about football philosophy, Kelly chose to focus on money. He mixed in some comments about liking one-cut, downhill runners, but he didn’t focus on that.

It doesn’t benefit Kelly to talk about what he really wants in RBs. He’d rather have the other 31 teams think this is all about money that to truly know his thinking. If those teams study things, they’ll figure out the truth. But why make it easy on them?

A good coach will pick and choose when to be honest. Fans and the media want honesty. It eliminates guessing and tells them exactly what is going on. Coaches are trying to protect their ideas, strategies and desires. Can you imagine Seattle telling the world they were targeting Russell Wilson in the 3rd round going into the 2012 draft? Andy Reid really wanted him and would have known to move up.

Heck, sometimes teams go out of their way to deceive others. Under Tom Heckert and Howie Roseman, the Eagles would bring in a few draft prospects to the NovaCare that they actually didn’t have on their draft board. They wanted to keep the rest of the league guessing. Do the Eagles like that guy or not?

Kelly’s primary goal when lying is to protect the team, not to deceive us or fool the media. Andy Reid did much of the same. Reid often lied to protect his players. That drove fans nuts, but led to guys being incredibly loyal to him. As much as fans wanted Reid to rip Todd Pinkston, it served no purpose.

Study actions, not words, and you’ll have a better idea of what a person really thinks.

When Chris Polk took over on goal line plays last year, that was a big hint that McCoy might not be in the long term plans. Does anyone remember Ricky Watters, Duce Staley or Brian Westbrook leaving the field inside the 10-yard line in the prime of their careers?

There is no real benefit to spilling the beans and sharing all your thoughts and ideas in the NFL. That’s one place where honesty most certainly isn’t the best policy. Lie, lie and lie some more.

Those of us who want to know the truth will follow the bread crumbs and try to figure out what’s really going on.

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I had an interesting thought tonight when thinking about RBs.

This will be Kelly’s third year. Look at the RBs he’s had here.

LeSean McCoy
Bryce Brown
Chris Polk
Darren Sproles
DeMarco Murray
Ryan Mathews

Wow, that is one impressive group. Long way from the days of Anthony Toney, Mark Higgs and Robert Drummond, huh?


Chip’s Breakfast Talk

Posted: March 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 248 Comments »

The media got to talk to Chip Kelly today for an hour during a coaches breakfast at the owners meetings. I don’t think we learned anything too shocking. That said, it is always good to hear the coach speak.

PE.com has a part of the talk posted.

The info I found most interesting involved personnel. Kelly said good things about Allen Barbre as the possible starting RG.

“I’m really excited about Allen,” Kelly said Wednesday. “We’ve been high on Allen for a long time. Was playing really well and then hurt his ankle in the first game. He came in the year before and did an unbelievable job when [Jason Peters] was out against Green Bay in a real tough matchup against a real good team in Green Bay and really did well for himself. Versatile player. Feel very confident in Allen Barbre.”

Obviously the coach is going to be positive rather than brutally honest, but Allen has played in a limited role for the Eagles. This isn’t a completely blind projection. There is some reason to think Barbre could play well at RG if he ends up with that job. He isn’t a long term answer due to his age, but he could be a solid starter in 2015.

Safety is a bit more open, to put it mildly. Kelly made it sound like Jaylen Watkins would be in the mix at that spot. He also mentioned Earl Wolff as a candidate.

“We’ll take a look at that,” Kelly said. “That’s what this process is all about, the offseason, you get a chance to see guys on the field. What is Earl [Wolff] like in Year 3? There’s guys on our team right now that can certainly play that role but it depends where they are when you get a chance to see them through OTAs, through minicamp, through preseason camp.”

“Yeah, Jaylen’s got versatility,” Kelly said. “How it will all play itself out, we’ve got a ton of time, and we’ve got a ton of reps between now and when we’ve got to make a decision on who’s going to end up opposite Malcolm. Jaylen’s another guy who will have an opportunity at the safety spot.”

I’m sure the Eagles will look for a Safety in the draft, but there are no guarantees they’ll come up with one. There aren’t a lot of great choices and as many as 31 teams could be looking for S help. The Eagles can count on coming up with solid WR in the draft. Safety is much more of a crapshoot. Worst case scenario, they have to be prepared to find the answer already on the roster. I’ll write more about Watkins as a Safety in a future post.

With Watkins being talked about as a S, that leaves Walter Thurmond, Nolan Carroll and Brandon Boykin to battle for the CB spot opposite of Byron Maxwell. Kelly did say Boykin would have a chance to play outside. He also said Carroll will stay at CB.

The Eagles have a good chance to add a CB in the draft. There is more depth at CB than S. Still, they can’t count on finding a starter there. The rookie can provide depth and/or competition. He might end up starting. But you can’t rely on the draft to find the starter.

Kelly talked about the idea that Maxwell is purely a product of the talented Seattle secondary.

“I think that’s a misconception because he didn’t have two safeties behind him,” Kelly said. “They were either a Cover-3 or a Cover-1, and they don’t play two-deep, and Kam [Chancellor] is usually down in the box. The one thing I think is interesting about Byron is because of how good Richard Sherman is, scheme-wise, [Maxwell] a lot of times got the best receiver.”

And there was this.

This is the most complicated part of having a unique coach. Some coaches can talk about running the ball and playing good defense…the desire to have a tough, physical team. Kelly has very specific ideas about football, players and how he wants things done.

It would be great if Kelly could share every detail with us, but that would mean giving ideas to other teams, as well as telling them the kind of players you’re looking for and how you want to do things. It boils down to this…you either trust Chip or you don’t. That isn’t to say you can’t question him. His actions can seem very unorthodox at times. But in the end you have to just sit back and see what happens.

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There is tons to read.

PE.com has a Twitter recap if you want a simple format.

Les Bowen offered his take on things.

Jeff McLane wrote about the Kelly-Roseman angle.

Jeff also covered Kelly’s comments on players/positions.

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Tuesday Night Stuff

Posted: March 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 489 Comments »

Jeff Lurie spoke at the owners meetings out in Arizona. Right now PE.com only has some snippets up. I want to wait until I can see the whole thing before writing a lot about his comments. I read a lot of the comments on Twitter as he made them, but I’m hoping to see full video so I can hear everything in complete context.

Lurie said a lot of interesting things. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole video.

The biggest takeaway from the video linked above is that Lurie wasn’t afraid to take chances, whether it meant shaking up how things ran in the front office or key personnel decisions. He doesn’t want to be “risk averse”. And I completely agree with that.

I’ve preached all offseason that the Eagles should be aggressive. They have to let Chip do things his way. You don’t hire Chip Kelly and then ask him to be conventional. That just doesn’t work.

Those of you who don’t like Chip as much as me get frustrated when I write this. You want him to do things that make sense to you. I get the mentality, but I look at things differently. I’m always trying to figure out what makes Chip see things differently. His moves are done for a reason. Rather than just disagree, I prefer to try to understand them.

Chip obviously explained his ideas well to Lurie and this offseason has been one bold move after another. Time will be the best judge of what was smart and what wasn’t.

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ILB Casey Matthews signed with the Vikings.

He never panned out the way anyone hoped, but Matthews was a solid STer and became an effective backup ILB. I give the guy credit for carving out a career for himself.

Remember Juan Castillo explaining the value of dinner at the Matthews household? Wow. That seems like an eternity ago.

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If you hate NFL Network analyst Heath Evans, and all good human beings do, you will love this BGN piece. Evans ran his mouth on Twitter and Malcolm Jenkins shut him up.

As Tony Bruno would say…”Beautiful.”

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