The Misery of Others

Posted: January 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 236 Comments »

If the Eagles aren’t going to win the Super Bowl, I turn my attention to the teams I want to lose in the playoffs. I’m sure most of you are the same way.

On Saturday, we saw the Seahawks go down and that made me happy. The combination of Pete Carroll, those players, those team colors and that stadium has led me to hate that team. I respect the heck out of how good they are, but still hate ’em. It was especially fun to see them lose on a day when they couldn’t stop the other team. Atlanta scored 36 points on that D.

Seattle has been a lucky team in recent years. They stayed very healthy for a few years and that got them to the NFC title game, won them a Super Bowl and almost won them another Super Bowl. Think about the Eagles. In 2001 Troy Vincent got hurt in the playoffs. Correll Buckhalter got hurt in the NFC-CG. In 2002 it was Donovan McNabb getting hurt in the regular season and then looking rusty in the playoffs. Blaine Bishop got hurt in the playoffs. In 2003 Brian Westbrook got hurt in the season finale and missed the postseason. In 2004 Shawn Andrews missed the whole season and then TO got hurt late in the year. The Eagles were never the same after that.

When I say Seattle was lucky, that’s not an insult. They were healthy and took advantage of it. That’s what you’re supposed to do. How often do we see a team play dominant football and then lose early in the playoffs? Seattle played great in the postseason when they had all their weapons.

This year Earl Thomas was missing and DE Michael Bennett was banged up. The pass rush wasn’t consistent and their secondary looked human. Welcome to the world that most teams live in.

I’m glad the Texans lost, simply because that team is so miserable to watch with Brock Osweiler at QB. He is just a mess right now.

Kansas City fell to the Steelers on Sunday night. I wasn’t happy about that. I hate the Steelers and I was really pulling for Andy Reid to make a title run this year. The Chiefs finally seemed to have enough weapons on offense to compensate for Alex Smith not being a dynamic QB. The Steelers shut down Tyreek Hill all game long and kept Travis Kelce quiet for more than half of the game. With those guys limited, Smith needed to play at a high level and that didn’t happen. He was 20-34-172. You can’t throw that many passes for that few yards and win in the postseason.

When Reid first left Philly, I had mixed feelings. He was fired so it wasn’t his choice to leave, but it was still weird to cheer for him with another team. On an intellectual level, I wanted him to succeed. My gut had mixed feelings. Enough time has passed now that I can look at that sexy beast with a world class mustache and just be happy for him. I would love Big Red to win a Super Bowl one of these days.

Sunday did feature the best game (and result) of them all.

Green Bay 34
Dallas 31

The Cowboys made an amazing comeback from down 21-3, but let’s remember they did this against a team with a WR playing RB, the star WR out and half the secondary hurt. Aaron Rodgers was masterful. When he is at his best, you are going to have a tough time beating him.

Dallas went 13-3 this year. They have some really talented players, but this never looked like a title team to me. Just too many questions, especially on defense. You can’t hide part of your team in the postseason.

And now for some fun.

Always good when we can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing Dallas has been eliminated. That’s not as good as the Eagles winning in the postseason, but it will do for now.

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Bunch of Nobodies

Posted: January 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 254 Comments »

Free agency doesn’t start until March, but there are moves to be made now. The Eagles have added a handful of players already.

WR Dom Williams
WR Rasheed Bailey
FB Andrew Bonnet
OL Josh LeRibeus
CB Mitchell White

So that would be nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody and nobody. Right?

Most signings like this do not pan out. If the team is lucky, the player becomes an effective role player. Most don’t make the team. But every now and then you find a hidden gem. Which WR posted the most yards for the Falcons in Saturday’s playoff win over Seattle? That would be Taylor Gabriel (4-71). He tied for the team lead in TD catches this season and has been a great find for the Falcons. And they aren’t even his first team. He wasn’t good enough for…the Browns.

Farmer did keep Gabriel around and he made the team in 2014. Heck, he was productive (36-621-1). Gabriel’s numbers dropped in 2015. With Farmer out as GM and a coaching change, Gabriel was let go. He got a second chance in Atlanta and has become a key part of their offense. You may remember him burning Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard TD at The Linc a couple of months back. (Here is a good story on Gabriel and his background if you want to know more)

Sometimes guys just slip through the cracks.

Jimmy Smith was cut by Dallas and the Eagles before he went to Jacksonville and had a great career.

Lin Dawson and Johnny Unitas were both cut by the Steelers. They did okay for themselves.

James Harrison was a UDFA signing by the Steelers. He was on and off their practice squad before going to Baltimore for a while. They sent him to NFL Europe. He ended up back with the Steelers and has had a great career since then.

I think we all know Kurt Warner’s crazy story. He was all over the place before finding a home with the Rams. Even then, it took an injury to Trent Green to get Warner on the field.

Derek Wake went from Penn State to playing in the CFL. He changed his name to Cameron Wake and became one heck of a pass rusher. Miami signed him to see if he could play in the NFL. 81.5 sacks and 21 FFs later, I’d say the answer is yes.

NFL rosters are set at 53 players for the regular season, but are up at 90 for most of the offseason. You don’t just know who the 53 best players are. You need to bring in a bunch of players to find the 53 best. Teams have detailed scouting reports on all of these players, but you never know how they will respond to a given situation. Scheme matters. Coaching matters. Teammates matter. Environment matters.

Evan Mathis was in the NFL for 6 seasons before coming to Philly. He played for 3 teams and started 22 games. He showed flashes of talent, but something still wasn’t clicking. That all changed when he got to play for Howard Mudd in Philly. Mudd’s scheme was perfect for him and Mathis became a Pro Bowl player. The talent was always there, but the circumstances hadn’t been right to get him to perform at his best.

Joselio “MmmBop” Hanson was on SF’s practice squad in 2003. He made their roster in 2004. Hanson got cut in 2005 and went to NFL Europe. The Eagles signed him prior to 2006 and he became a key role player for the next 6 seasons.

 

The Eagles did have luck with one player from the CFL, DE Phillip Hunt. He was a backup pass rusher in 2011 and 2012, totaling 3 sacks.

There is no reason to get excited by the players the Eagles have added, but the beauty of pro football is that you never know when a nobody will become a somebody.

*****

Crazy.

And go Packers!!!

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Close or Not?

Posted: January 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 178 Comments »

Are the Eagles “close”?

Doug Pederson says yes.

Howie Roseman won’t answer, but goes on to say just being 10-6…just getting into the playoffs isn’t good enough.

What gives? I addressed the situation in this week’s PE.com column.

On the surface, it sounds like the two of them disagree. That’s not really the case at all. Each man has a different perspective, based on his job. The coach has to think of today or this week. He can’t live in the future. Coaches who think too much about the future rarely make it to the future. Personnel executives have a different situation. They built the current roster, but are always looking to the future. What does the upcoming draft look like? Free agency? Should I be negotiating with my current players on extensions?

Both men actually gave the right answer.

The Eagles were close to being a winning team.

Being a winning team isn’t good enough.

The goal is to be a legitimate title contender. That means playing at a high level. The Eagles started to do this in 2001. They broke through in 2002 and played really good football again in 2003 and 2004. Those teams had a franchise QB, strong O-line and an outstanding defense. You can see where the current Eagles are headed in that direction. Whether they can be as good as the 2001-2004 teams is yet to be seen. That all depends on the development of Carson Wentz and whether they can find the right guys to go around him.

*****

Jimmy Bama wrote about Groh here.

Groh has worked for the Bears and Rams. Prior to that he was at Alabama and did a great job with some talented college players. He is the son of former NFL and college coach Al Groh. Mike has been around the game of football his whole life.

One interesting angle with Groh is that he coached these players in the past:

Alshon Jeffrey
Brandon Marshall
Brian Quick
Kenny Britt

Marshall could be cut or might be available in a trade. The other three players are all free agents. Hiring Groh would not be a sign that the Eagles are going to pursue any of those WRs, but it is an interesting connection.

The problem with Groh is that he might want to be a QB coach in the NFL or offensive coordinator at the college level. He played QB in college and was a QBs coach at Virginia and Louisville. He was also an OC for Virginia.

If Groh wants to prove he can really coach, there is no better opportunity than taking the Eagles WR job. Get that group turned around and you would never be doubted again.

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Coach Update

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 213 Comments »

Nothing official yet, but…

We’ll see what happens.

One interesting note about Lal.

Sure enough, Lal is a client there. Is Bob LaMonte, Howie’s agent, pushing Lal on the Eagles? That’s a fair question to ask.

At the same time, it isn’t like Lal is unqualified or anything like that. He has been an assistant in the NFL for 10 seasons. He’s worked for different teams, coaches and GMs. Relationships aside, I would have no problem with the Eagles hiring Lal.

Some have talked about Jags WR coach Jerry Sullivan. He has been a terrific assistant for a long time, but apparently is considering retiring. He will turn 73 this summer.

*****

The Eagles added WR Dom Williams from the Chargers practice squad.

Williams spent his rookie year on the Chargers’ practice squad after leading the team with 10 catches for 132 yards in the preseason. He signed with San Diego as a rookie free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6-2, 200-pound Williams was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention after his senior season at Washington State in 2015. He had 75 catches for 1,040 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year with the Cougars. He finished his Washington State career ranked second all time in school history in receiving yards (2,889), second in touchdown catches (30) and third in receptions (192).

Williams played for Mike Leach at WSU. Over the years, Leach has done a good job of developing WRs with good hands. Williams isn’t dynamic, but he is a hands catcher and can make tough grabs. He has solid size and a year of NFL practice under his belt. Good competition for Training Camp.

*****

Sean McDermott is now the head coach in Buffalo.

McDermott had a great run with the Eagles before being let go after the 2010 season. Andy Reid wanted a change in the defense, but also knew McDermott needed a change of scenery. He didn’t handle the transition from assistant to defensive coordinator well. I’m not talking about X’s and O’s, but rather how he treated people. McDermott tried to assert himself into the new role and rubbed a few people the wrong way. He wasn’t a bad guy. He simply needed a change of scenery.

McDermott did a very good job with the Panthers and now gets a chance to show he is ready to run his own team. He certainly has the knowledge and experience from working under great coaches. It will be interesting to see how his leadership skills have improved and if he learned from the past.

Good luck to him.

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Coaching Target?

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 69 Comments »

Greg Lewis is out. So who will take over as WRs coach? We can joke about TO or Todd Pinkston or Billy McMullen, but I’m guessing Doug Pederson will try to hire someone good and with coaching experience so put your former Eagle dreams on hold. I know many of you would love the chance to yell at Pinkston every week, but it just isn’t going to happen.

You can check out Lal’s biography here.

Let’s keep it simple and talk about WRs who played well under his tutelage.

2016 – BUF – Marquise Goodwin

2015 – BUF – Sammy Watkins

2014 – NYJ – Eric Decker

2013 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson

2012 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley

2011 – OAK – Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey

2010 – OAK – Jacoby Ford

2009 – OAK – Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy

Not all of those guys had 1,000 yards or 10 TDs in a season. That would be great, but would also miss the point. Lal has had success with a variety of WRs, with most of them not being elite talents. He was able to get the most out of his players that he could. That’s exactly what Greg Lewis didn’t do.

Lal had success with big guys. He also had success with small, fast guys. He was able to cobble together a solid set of WRs when injuries hit and he had to play guys that had limited talent. Lal had success with rookies, young players and a couple of veterans as well. He doesn’t need one specific type of player or receiver to make things work.

Lal isn’t the best WRs coach in the NFL. He’s not a magician. If the Eagles do bring him in, he would help the current group, but clearly only a talent infusion will get the Eagles the kind of help they need at WR.

That said, I still do think the Eagles would like to see what Nelson Agholor and DGB could do with better coaching and better QB play. Doug Pederson already started the process of changing position coaches. Carson Wentz should take a step forward in 2017 and that will help his receivers out. A smart, accurate, experienced QB can be a big help to less than great WRs.

The realistic goal at this point is to see if Agholor and DGB can be good role players. Ted Ginn was a 1st round pick who failed initially, but has since found a way to stay in the league as a productive role player. Agholor and DGB do have some talent. Agholor needs confidence and a lot of help. We can’t really evaluate DGB fairly since he had very little time with the team before the season. 2017 will tell us if he’s a tease or if someone can coach him up and get him to play well.

Stay tuned to see if Lal is the new WRs coach or if the team is looking around at other targets.

*****

Jimmy Bama has some info on the newest Eagle.

LeRibeus was a third round pick (71st overall) of the Skins in 2012. He has appeared in 28 games over his career, starting 12, 11 of which were in 2015. He was released by the Redskins at final cuts in 2016, and was unable to latch on with another team.

LeRibeus has guard/center versatility, which Doug Pederson obviously likes, however, he is a long shot to make the roster in 2017.

A young player with some experience and some upside is always worth taking a look at. But I agree with Jimmy that LeRibeus would be a long shot to make the team.

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