I was mad when the Eagles drafted Ike Reese back in the spring of 1998. I don’t remember who I wanted them to pick, but Reese was a player I didn’t think much of. I didn’t see starting ability in him so spending a 5th round pick on him seemed like a waste.
I was right about the fact that Reese never proved to be a starter.
I was dead wrong about the pick being a waste. Reese was a key player for the Eagles for seven years, serving as a backup LB and being the leader of the team’s outstanding STs units.
The Eagles didn’t spend a pick on Quentin Gause. They signed him as a UDFA shortly after the draft. If he could turn out to have a career anything like Reese, that would be great for him and the Eagles. Like Reese, I don’t see Gause becoming a starter at the NFL level. He also reminds me of Reese in the fact that he is high character, a good leader and is willing to do the dirty work. Gause could find a home on STs.
Let’s talk about Gause the player. He played OLB at Rutgers. He lined up both on the LOS and back off the ball. Gause isn’t a flashy player or special athlete. He’s one of those guys who does his job without a lot of fanfare. He does a good job of setting the edge on run plays. Gause will extend his arms into the blocker and play with good leverage. He was put out in space in some sets. Gause did a good job of fighting through blocks on WR screens and other quick passes.
Gause was least effective when playing off the line and between the tackles. He is better playing through contact than reading plays and chasing the ball. He is a tough, physical player. Gause is a very good tackler. He wraps up his targets and puts then down forcefully.
I think he is a good fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. Gause can control one gap. He is smart and disciplined. He also is better as a N-S player than an E-W player. I wonder if Schwartz is reminded of a former player of his, LB David Thornton. The Titans signed Thornton as a free agent in 2006. He was their SAM/LLB. He was taller and a better athlete, but overall is similar to Gause.
The downside with Gause is that he’s a limited playmaker. He had 3 sacks, 1 FF and no INTs in college. Gause has the skills of a SAM, but the build of a WLB. He had a good Pro Day, but you don’t always see that athleticism on tape.
The Eagles have moved Gause around to try him at different spots. Despite his lack of ideal size, I think SAM is his best spot. Gause will need to show the Eagles he could be effective at multiple spots. If he were to make the team, he’d be called on to play where needed in a game. I’ll be interested to see if they use him at MLB. I don’t think Gause fits there, but sometimes you have to try things to know for sure. Maybe in this system Gause could fit there.
Gause has an uphill battle to make the team, but he does have a legitimate chance. The Eagles are thin at LB. Gause fits the scheme and he’s a smart, tough player who won’t be overwhelmed by the situation.
Expectations are high for the Eagles defense this year. Jim Schwartz is an outstanding defensive coordinator. He will have a very talented DL, with Fletcher Cox as his star up front. The LBs are talented. The Safeties have a chance to be one of the best tandems in the league. Cornerback is a mystery, but there is enough talent for the Eagles to have effective starters.
Right now the defense is a work in progress. They struggled mightily when the media got to watch practice on Tuesday. There were far too many blown coverages and missed assignments. There is no hitting or tackling at this time of the year so the focus for defenders is being at the right place at the right time.
That would be fine except that Eagles defenders are learning a new scheme. Some guys are changing positions. Then you have quite a few rookies and second-year players in the mix. To put it mildly, this group has a long way to go.
But that’s the point of these OTAs. The coaches get to install their schemes and also get a feel for their players. Mistakes are okay. Players are learning. When July and August get here, the players better know where to be and what to do in just about every situation.
It is never fun to read things like this.
Jimmy Bama – The Eagles’ defense stunk today. There were wide open receivers all over the field, and the defensive line must have jumped offsides on at least a half dozen occasions.
Jim Schwartz – I have my own worries. You guys saw how crappy a practice that was: We’ve got enough worries on defense right now.
The good news is that we’re still in May. This is the time of year when Sean Considine and Lorenzo Booker look like stars. Don’t get too worried about a unit having ups and downs, especially with all the change.
I have confidence in Jim Schwartz. His scheme worked in TEN, DET and BUF. The guy knows how to teach and how to coach. The Eagles have smart players and key leaders. Give these guys some time and the defense should get a lot better.
Mistakes were being made by Denzel Rice and Joe Walker, among others, on Tuesday. Rice is a second year corner and Walker is a rookie MLB. As Schwartz would say, “their heads are swimming right now”.
Jordan Hicks is participating after sitting out last Tuesday’s team drills with leg tightness. Kenjon Barner just found some daylight off the right side, and Hicks is not happy with himself as he runs off the field.
“I f___d that up. I f___d that all the way up,” he tells Schwartz.
I have faith in Hicks. He picked up the defense very quickly last year. He played multiple roles at Texas. He also will hold himself accountable. Some players have excuses when things go wrong. Hicks wants to get things right and isn’t hiding from his mistakes. Coaches love players like that.
“It’s a lot different. Just the philosophy in general is different. Our D line two-gapped and our linebackers played a little bit side to side,” Hicks said. “Everybody’s got a gap this year and it’s your responsibility to take control of it.
“Coach Schwartz and everybody will tell you that his focus is to make it easy for the D-line, make them just go. He’s told the linebackers to play off of them and that’s what we’re taught to do and that’s what we do. I’m excited. Can’t wait to get out there Game 1 to get out there and show the progress that we’ve made as a team and all of the training and everything that we’ve gone through in the offseason. We’re still in the mix of things and still have Training Camp coming up, but it’s exciting and I’m real proud of everything that has gone on so far.”
If Schwartz can be anywhere near as good as Jim Johnson was in Philly, the Eagles defense will be very good and a lot of fun to watch.
I do look forward to the Eagles having a Top 10 unit that can take over games.
As for Bill Davis, he was dealt a tough hand in Philly. I honestly don’t think we know if he can coach or not. I think he can be a good assistant, but his stints at DC have all been under some serious hard luck conditions.
Jim Schwartz got to hold his first extended press conference on Tuesday. It went on and on. Heck, I’m not sure it’s over yet. I kid, I kid. The PC lasted almost 28 minutes and Schwartz covered all kinds of topics, offering lots of interesting thoughts.
He seems very excited by the duo of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Schwartz said they would be one of the best Safety tandems in the league. He mentioned several times in the PC that you can’t judge players based on these limited practices, but then went rogue.
“I’m sort of violating my own rule of judging too much into this time of year, but … both of those guys are veteran players and you can see in them right away that they’re both multi-dimensional,” Schwartz said. They communicate very well, they can cover a lot of ground, they can blitz, they can play man, they can play zone – I’d be very surprised as the year went on if they’re not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They’ve been very impressive so far.”
You can actually get a good feel for Safeties in these practices. You can see them get players lined up correctly. You can see them diagnose plays. You can see them cover. You can see how quickly they come down to the LOS on run plays. You just can’t see them hit or tackle. Jenkins and McLeod are both proven hitters/tacklers so that’s not a concern with them.
I liked the fact Schwartz talked about experimenting with players. If he wants to get a good feel for Jalen Mills, he needs to see Mills go against the starters. That means Mills got some reps with the 1’s. It doesn’t mean the player ahead of him did anything wrong. Coaches have to move guys up and down to see them go against different levels of competition. The coaches were tired of seeing Mills cover rookies. They wanted him covering some veterans. Sounds like Schwartz saw some good things.
Yeah, it’s a little too early to put anything on him. He’s been impressive so far. But we haven’t really even started yet, to tell you the truth. He’s got a lot to learn, and his head’s probably swimming a little bit. But what he has shown is he’s a very good athlete. He can play the ball, and he’s comfortable being on an island. I think if you were check-marking things for corners, those would be three near or at the top.
I also think Mills is smart and instinctive in coverage. That helps him a lot.
Schwartz said the coaches are still figuring out how to use the LBs. They could either declare them to be LLB-MLB-RLB or SAM-MLB-WLB. That means either left-middle-right or lining up based on the TE and strength of the formation. Schwartz has done both in the past.
Schwartz said good things about UDFA LBs Quentin Gause and Myke Tavarres. He hedeged rather than over-praising them, but it sounded like he was happy the Eagles were able to get both on board after the draft. Tavarress got the bigger bonus. He is a better athlete and has more upside. In college, he played more like a DE. He’s now adjusting to moving off the ball and attacking.
We got some real good insight on 7th round pick Joe Walker, who is the backup MLB.
You know, Joe has — it’s very difficult to play linebacker, and I’ll throw [Blake] Countess in there too, safety. Those are positions that you have to know where all the pieces fit together, and you’ve got to be the guys that are making calls on the run. Joe’s going through a little different experience going from the system he played in college where he was a lateral player. He wasn’t attacking the line of scrimmage, north-south guys, more lateral. So he’s learning on the way. But he’s shown he can make a play in the passing game. He’s a good athlete, he’s long, he’s hard to throw. He didn’t have a very good day today, but it starts to creep up on those guys. They feel comfortable with one thing, and all of a sudden you’re adding three more defenses. They’re going out and trying to execute those. All their heads are swimming right now. But they will start to come back.
Walker can be up and down for now. Training Camp is when the pressure will be on. If he’s still struggling at that point, the team will need to add a veteran to back-up Jordan Hicks. Stephen Tulloch is still a Lion, but keep your eyes on that situation.
Schwartz offered some encouragement in regard to Marcus Smith.
I think the biggest thing when you’re talking about a young player is allowing him to grow at, I guess, at the right pace. I don’t know if that’s the best way to put it. But first of all, let’s reserve judgment on any of those guys until the pads come on. But this is a scheme that greatly limits what he’s asked to do. Very easy in theory, difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, you know, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact. He’s very athletic. He’s got great size. He’s done very well so far, but let’s reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them.
Clearly Smith did not pan out as a 3-4 OLB. That still surprises me. I thought he had really good LB skills and a nice mixture of size and athleticism. Something just didn’t click. Playing DE for Schwartz gives him one of the simplest jobs in the NFL: Go get the QB. That’s literally it. Those guys are taught to “play the run on the way to the QB”.
Forget about Smith as a former 1st rounder for now. If he can become a good backup DE, he’ll help the 2016 Eagles. Brandon Graham was in a similar situation a few years back. That was mainly due to injury, but the point is the same. He became a valuable role player and then moved up to being a starter. Smith has had a painfully slow start to his career, but this is a chance for him to re-make himself and contribute on defense.
There has been some talk about Sam Bradford as the #1 QB because of comments by Schwartz and OC Frank Reich. To me, this is much ado about nothing.
Schwartz said this.
You know, there’s a lot of things. I think I probably would say similar to some of these other questions I had. Don’t judge him on somebody else, and then also don’t predetermine the results of the race. Just let him go play. Don’t put pressure on him.
Angelo Cataldi: We’re getting the sense, Frank, that that’s not going to happen, that there isn’t a quarterback competition, that Bradford is the No. 1. Is that the right impression?
Frank Reich: “No, that’s probably not the right impression. I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. So, if you’re the head coach you gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that — as coaches — that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. This is one of the most competitive industries in the world and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth. So, I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order and things have a way of working themselves out.”
Some people want to take these statements and turn them into assistant coaches undermining Doug Pederson. I don’t see it that way at all.
When Howie Roseman and Pederson talk about Sam Bradford being the #1 QB and this being his team, they are assuming that he’s going to play well, to win the competition. Do you really want them to have to play the semantics game with every comment? Didn’t we just get rid of Chip Kelly in part because he obsessed over semantics?
The head coach can’t throws “if’s and but’s” into every thing he says. At some point, he’s got to say, “Sam is our QB. This is his team.” That’s simple and direct.
Anyone with half a brain knows that comment doesn’t mean “Sam is our QB no matter how he plays. I don’t care if Chase Daniel and/or Carson Wentz look better. This is Sam’s team.”
You also have to understand that a head coach is trying to build confidence in his players, especially at QB. Doug Pederson knows there is a legitimate chance Bradford could struggle this year. You don’t talk about that publicly, though. You build up your guy’s confidence by saying things like “He’s our starter and this is his team.”
I was and remain a Chip Kelly fan, but the thing I hated the most was when he became Mr. Semantics. How often did we hear him say something like “Sam is our QB for today. I don’t know if he’s going to get hurt or abducted by aliens or whatever so there is no use in naming him the starter for anything longer than the next 34 minutes.” ?
All depth charts are written in pencil.
The NFL is all about competition. The best players will play. Right now Sam Bradford is the Eagles best QB. That might change in a week or a month. Pederson will only stick with him as long as he’s the best option to put on the field.
On the second day of media access to Eagles OTAs, Sam Bradford was very sharp. He missed a wide open Zach Ertz on a sideline throw, but otherwise, Bradford was very accurate, delivering the ball with good placement and allowing receivers to get yards after the catch.
That is good to hear. The Eagles future is all about Carson Wentz, but the present is all about Sam Bradford. This time last year Bradford was rehabbing his knee. Being on the field and developing good chemistry with his teammates should make a difference. There isn’t any hitting or tackling, but QBs and receivers can work on their timing and really get something from these practices.
I don’t know what happened last year in the games that mattered, but there’s no question Nelson Agholor is talented. He snatched a deep crosser with his hands away from his body over the middle and then turned on the jets, running away from the safeties for a score. His acceleration is very impressive.
We’ve already talked a bit about Agholor and his need to play better this year. You could argue he’s the real X-factor on offense. Bradford has to be consistent. Ryan Mathews has to stay healthy. The OL has some very good pieces in place. Agholor has to show that he can be a good starting NFL receiver. If he can make plays this spring and summer, that should help his confidence.
Jimmy has some good depth chart info so be sure to check out his notes.
— The cornerback position – both outside spots and in the slot – is up for grabs. Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks have been the starters, partly, it would seem, because they both know Schwartz’s system from Buffalo. Jalen Mills got some first-team reps. The rookie broke up a jump ball down the sideline vs. Matthews. He has good length. Schwartz is just mixing and matching, and moving players around at this point. My guess is that the outside spots will eventually be McKelvin’s and Eric Rowe’s to lose. Rowe had a solid day. He had coverage on one Chase Daniel toss to Agholor and broke up another long Daniel pass. Rowe spends a lot of time between reps chatting with Cory Undlin. You can tell that Rowe is one of the defensive backs coach’s pet projects. Being a second-round pick helps, but Rowe looks very coachable. Cornerbacks Nolan Carroll (ankle) and JaCorey Shepherd (knee) participated in warmups and some individual drills, but are being held out of team drills for now.
Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll are the 3 best corners on the team right now. Carroll isn’t fully healthy so that limits his reps. I think Jim Schwartz is smart to start McKelvin and Ron Brooks. Those guys know the system and allow the others to watch and learn as the starting D is out on the field.
Mills is interesting. The Eagles list him at S, but they are moving him around. After practice, Schwartz talked about Mills having good corner skills. It sounds like he is playing well there right now. The Eagles don’t have any stud CBs right now, but they could have a good competition this summer as these young, talented guys fight for roster spots and playing time.
— Wide receiver Rueben Randle had his gall bladder removed Monday. The surgery was deemed minor, but he will be out for a little while. I thought that Chris Givens, another receiver added in free agency this off-season, had a nice day. He toasted cornerback Denzel Rice at one point. When receiver Jonathan Krause beat Rice a short time later, Undlin and Schwartz pulled the corner in disgust. Agholor was active. He likes to talk on the field. A number of defensive backs (Jenkins, Brooks) gave him a hard time because it was his birthday (he turned 23).
Givens played well with Bradford for a year in St. Louis so it would be good to see him have a nice summer and push for playing time. Givens has good speed, something the Eagles need at receiver.
As for Denzel Rice, he is one of the young corners that is struggling right now. Rice played well enough to make the team as a rookie, but that doesn’t guarantee him anything this season. Every year we see a UDFA or late round pick that looked good last year struggle to stay at that level. Not everyone can stay hungry and play with the edge that helped them to make the team. No idea if that’s the case with Rice, but it has happened a lot in the past. That’s just human nature working against players. When you sample life in the NFL and make several hundred thousand dollars fresh out of college, it can be tough to stay focused.
12:15 — We’re positioned on the same sideline as the players and coaches today, which is great because it lets us pick up on some of the interactions. Malcolm Jenkins sees the offense is in a personnel grouping that might give them some issues. He yells out the package number to Schwartz. After a beat, the defensive coordinator responds. “Stay in nickel. F__k ’em.”
“F__k ’em,” Jenkins relays. The following play is an incompletion.
Always love stories like this. You can see what a smart player Jenkins is. I think it is also good for the players and Schwartz to bond. He’s teaching them to have an attitude, which is important on defense. Offense is more about timing and execution. Attitude helps on defense, where attacking is the name of the game.
12:00 — Wentz is up and down today. Here he throws a beauty to Chris Givens down the right sideline and then finds Jordan Matthews streaking up the middle. As is his custom, Matthews turns upfield and races 40 yards to the end zone, still running long after the play is over in everyone else’s eyes.
12:22 — Wentz gets tangled up with a lineman, trips, and unleashes a sidearm pass on his way to the ground that somehow makes it to Trey Burton. Rookie growing pains.
12:35 — Red zone drills. Wentz fires a “touchdown” to Pantale. As he rejoins the quarterbacks, Wentz and Bradford share a laugh and then a high five. Maybe Pederson is right. Maybe all is right in the quarterback world. For now.
Wentz is supposed to be up and down. He’s a rookie in his first month of practices. The big thing you’re looking for is to see that the physical skills are legit. The pass to Burton shows how gifted Wentz is. He was off balance and was still able to get enough on the throw for it to get all the way outside. That’s not a play that Matt Barkley is pulling off.
Thanks to all the beat writers who do such a terrific job of covering the practices for those of us who can’t be there to watch in person.
Football predictions are tricky. Every football team in a given year is like a chemistry experiment. How will the ingredients react when mixed together and then put under different circumstances? The 2003 Eagles were good. Add in Jevon Kearse and Terrell Owens and the 2004 team became special. The 2010 Eagles were good. The team made a slew of changes in 2011 and that group went backwards.
Last year the Eagles went 7-9. That was part of the reason that Jeffrey Lurie made a coaching change, but usually a team has to hit rock bottom before that occurs. Ray Rhodes was fired after going 3-13. Andy Reid was fired after going 4-12. Chip Kelly got a shorter leash because Lurie wasn’t happy with how things were going off the field as well as on the field.
Doug Pederson didn’t inherit a disaster. He got an underachieving team with some odd parts. Howie Roseman got rid of the odd parts in the offseason and tried to fix the holes in the roster, but you just can’t fix everything at once. It takes time.
So what do we make of the Eagles heading into the 2016 season?
If you want to feel good about the team, think of it this way. Last year the Eagles went 7-9. Off that team, you lost DeMarco Murray, Mark Sanchez, Riley Cooper, Byron Maxwell, Miles Austin, Kiko Alonso. Heck, those almost feel like addition by subtraction moves. Walter Thurmond is probably retiring. He had a solid year, but wasn’t as good as the early hype made him out to be. DeMeco Ryans is also gone, maybe into retirement himself. His leadership will be missed and he did have a couple of good games, but it was time to let him go.
The Eagles upgraded the QB position. They improved the O-line. You can argue they upgraded the WR position, depending on what you think of Rueben Randle and Chris Givens. The defense should be much better, for a variety of reasons. First, the no-huddle offense is gone. That means no more leading the league in defensive snaps. The Eagles essentially played 2 extra games the past few years.
Pederson hit a major home run when he hired Jim Schwartz to come in and run his defense. Schwartz is a veteran coach who has had success at multiple stops and with multiple players. The other factor here is that Schwartz was given the freedom to run his defense. Bill Davis ran the defense that Chip Kelly wanted. It is likely that his ideas would have been similar, but Davis still had to deal with some restraints. Schwartz has carte blanche to run the D.
The front seven on defense will be very close to what it was last year. The team did upgrade at Safety when they signed Rodney McLeod. CB remains a mystery, but the Eagles have assembled a group of talented players to compete for jobs. Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe all have starting experience. JaCorey Shepherd was highly thought of last summer before tearing an ACL. Rookie Jalen Mills could be a player to watch.
By getting rid of underachieving headaches, adding talented veterans and rookies, and bringing in a top flight defensive coordinator, it sure feels like the Eagles have improved on last year’s 7-9 squad. Does this team go 8-8? 9-7? Even better? Somehow worse than 7-9?
In order to figure out the 2016 Eagles, you have to think back to last year. That team went 7-9 and lost 3 games by a field goal or less. They were a few plays from going 10-6. I know the reverse is also true. They won some tight games and could have finished with a worse record.
The Eagles went 4-0 against Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Eli Manning (7 combined Super Bowl rings). At the same time, they got destroyed by rookie Jameis Winston and made Kirk Cousins look like Joe Montana. Twice. Ugh.
The 2015 Eagles are hard to figure out. They could look so good at times and so dreadfully bad at others. The team struggled to put together 60 minutes of good football. They were down 20-3 to the Falcons in the opener before rallying to take the lead. The Saints scored the first and last TDs of that game, but in between, the Eagles dominated them 39-3.
The Eagles could build a big lead, only to blow it. They could dig a big hole for themselves, only to claw out of it and take the lead. And then blow it, of course.
I think the pressure of preseason hype got to the team last year. Everyone was confident and happy in August. The teams started slowly in the regular season and the team never really recovered. They did get the record to 4-4 at midseason, but even then the team wasn’t playing with confidence. The 2015 Eagles found ways to lose. It shouldn’t be that hard to turn them into a winner.
The flip side of this is that there are reasons to worry. Pederson is a complete unknown. Can he fix Chip Kelly’s flaws? Maybe, but there sure as heck aren’t any guarantees.
While the QB position is better, Sam Bradford remains fragile. Just how good is Chase Daniel? He has to be better than Mark Sanchez. He has to. Right?
What happens if Ryan Mathews goes down in Week 1 or 2? The Eagles have talented runners, but other than Mathews, they all seem like role players. Maybe Kenjon Barner turns into the next Justin Forsett, but he could also be the next Tony Hunt (who am I kidding…Barner is worlds better than that already).
Will any of the young WRs step up? Jordan Matthews can’t do it all by himself.
I would talk about the O-line and injuries, but really all 32 teams are vulnerable to that.
The Eagles will be hurt if Jordan Hicks can’t stay on the field at MLB. He’s the smartest LB on the team and is a natural leader who runs the defense.
The secondary will be an issue if none of the players steps up to solidify CB. Schwartz loves to really get after the QB. He needs his Safeties to play the run. That means lots of man coverage for his corners.
You also have to factor in competition when thinking about this season. Dallas will have Tony Romo back at QB, although he’s likely to get hurt at some point in the year. They will have Ezekiel Elliott to feed the ball to so the run game should be better this year. Washington has to deal with the pressure of expectations. They didn’t beat a winning team last year so they weren’t exactly a juggernaut. The Giants might be even more of a mystery than the Eagles. They have a new coach and completely rebuilt defense. I still have concerns about that defense and their OL.
I think the Eagles can win the division. I know that’s setting the bar low, but there are just too many unknowns to get overly excited about this team right now. I do like the direction the team is headed in. Last year I had to try to understand Chip Kelly’s thinking. This year the moves are more obvious. You don’t have to try to understand why the team wanted Brandon Brooks or Rodney McLeod or Leodis McKelvin.
BGN has links to some NFL power rankings. The Eagles were generally between 22 and 30 in these rankings. That’s not optimistic, but is reasonable. Well, except for 30. The Eagles have the potential to field an outstanding defense, a solid offense and great STs. I don’t see how you predict that group as the 3rd worst in the league.
With the presence of Carson Wentz on the team it is easy to get caught up in thinking about the future. I’m excited to see what the Eagles do this year. I want a better W-L record than last year, but I’ll settle for a team that is less dysfunctional and more likable.
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