Final Look Back – Great LBs

Posted: July 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 151 Comments »

Training Camp will be starting soon so we’ll have some actual fresh story lines to discuss. That means this is probably the last summer time piece. For PE.com, I wrote about the great Eagles LB corps of Seth Joyner, Byron Evans and William Thomas. For my money, they are one of the best LB units of all time.

I was thinking about LB interceptions the other day (because that’s the kind of stuff that floats through my brain, besides me and Megan Fox attending a Level 42 concert together of course). William Thomas is 9th in NFL history in INTs by a LB.  Seth Joyner is 19th. Willie T. had 27 picks, Seth had 24.

Go look at that list and you see tons of players from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Seth is the only player on the list whose career began in the 1980’s. Ray Lewis, Derrick Brooks, Donnie Edwards and Willie T. are the guys who began their careers in the 1990’s. That should give you an idea how special they were.

And Byron Evans had 13 career picks (in 113 career games). That’s a good total for a MLB. Jeremiah Trotter and DeMeco Ryans have combined for 15 picks in 273 career games.

INTs don’t define how good a LB is, but it struck me how unique the Eagles were to have a pair of great cover LBs in Joyner and Thomas. Not good, but great. Thomas began his college career as a DB. Joyner played SS for a few games due to injury while with the Cardinals. These guys were athletic, instinctive and skilled.

Would you believe that Willie T. had more career pass breakups than Lito Sheppard?

And it wasn’t all about coverage. The trio combined for 92.5 sacks. Think about that total for a second. These are 4-3 LBs that weren’t going after the QB on every play. But they still produced big numbers.

The trio combined for 50 forced fumbles. They could knock the crap out of you.

Run defense is a team stat, but these guys were part of one of the greatest run defenses of all time. In their first 1.5 years of playing together, they allowed one 100-yard rusher.

Why is this group so overlooked?

They never won a Super Bowl (as a trio), or even came close to playing in one. And they only played together for 2.5 years. They gave us 35 glorious games and the Eagles went 25-10 in them. Joyner left in free agency following the 1993 season and Evans tore up his knee in mid-1994. One funny note…the Eagles replaced Joyner with Bill Romanowski for 1994. That’s funny because Romo might be the only player I can think of who was more intense and angrier on the field than Joyner was.

Seth Joyner should be in the Hall of Fame, or at least in the mix for a spot. His numbers make him one of the most unique LBs in NFL history. William Thomas and Byron Evans are a notch below. They were outstanding players, but not at Joyner’s level.

I love writing about these players and doing research for pieces like this. It reminds me how lucky Eagles fans were to watch the Gang Green defense from 1989-1992. What a special group.

* * * * *

This is simply fantastic. Go check out the BGN story.

_


Chipmania

Posted: July 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 55 Comments »

Chip Kelly met with the local media a while back and answered a ton of questions. The media held the stories so they would have something to write about as a lead-up to the opening of Training Camp. Those stories are starting to break this morning and will continue for several days.

If you get tired of Chip Kelly stories quickly…this won’t be your favorite week.

First up is Jimmy Bama with the best non-story you’ll read all day. Players like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis and Frank Gore all have been represented by Drew Rosenhaus. Three of them were let go by the Eagles and Gore was involved in a weird “I’m an Eagle” vs “I’m a Colt” situation. Is Rosenhaus a problem for Kelly?

“I don’t really deal with agents,” Kelly said. “I think we have a real good relationship. We have a real good relationship with Drew I can tell you that. I think Drew has been very professional, very detailed, I think he gets a bad rap to be honest with you in my dealings with him. I think he’s been above board, straight ahead, detail-oriented, very organized and you know exactly where you stand. I think anybody will tell you that when you deal with Drew you know exactly where you stand. Wish more people acted like that to be honest with you.”

Rosenhaus represents more than five percent of the NFL’s players, many of whom are very good players. It certainly doesn’t behoove Kelly to speak poorly of Rosenhaus to a gaggle of reporters and potentially strain that relationship. As such, Kelly’s complimentary words on Rosenhaus don’t come as much of a surprise.

Kelly, not specifically talking about his former Rosenhaus players, noted that the players they cut had another common denominator. “They were all very expensive,” said Kelly. “I think that’s just the nature of contracts in this league. A lot of them are back-end loaded. I mean, then decisions have to be made. So guys are making 10, 11 million dollars a year, you have to make a decision on them. That’s just part of really how the league is set up. That’s why when people throw all these numbers out, that Player X signed a five-year $100 million contract when two years are guaranteed at 8 apiece, he never signed a five-year, $100 million contract. He’s never going to see that, so that’s just the way the league is.

“And there’s guys that… DeMarcus Ware had a very high contract, and he got let go at the end of his contract. Does that mean he’s a not a good football player? He’s a hell of a football player. He’s just, the pay for play at that point in time, was he worth X? The same thing happened with [Darrelle] Revis. Are you going to pay him, I don’t know what he was supposed to make, 20? I mean, those numbers really just got really high at the end of a lot of contracts.”

Still, when you look at all the names Rosenhaus represents who have had unceremonious exits with the Eagles since Kelly was hired, you do wonder. So let’s look at them all individually…

Go read the whole piece. Jimmy breaks down each situation thoroughly. As for his conclusion…I won’t spoil that, although I’ve already given you a key hint.

* * * * *

Roob wrote about Kelly dismantling the Eagles and why that happened.

In all, the Eagles said goodbye to nine regular starters, including big names like LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, long-time Eagles like Todd Herremans and Trent Cole and recent Pro Bowlers like Nick Foles and Evan Mathis.

Players who started a staggering 658 games in an Eagles uniform in their career were either traded, released or allowed to sign elsewhere.

Why tear apart a 10-win team?

“I didn’t feel we were close at the end of the year,” Kelly said. “Ten and six, not going to the playoffs, is just like being 4-12. I understand it numbers wise, but it’s still…”

It’s still not good enough, Kelly decided.

It’s easy to realize you have to fix a lousy team. Kelly realized late in the season that he had to find a way to fix a pretty good team.

“I knew we had to get better as a team,” he said. “And I think in this league, it’s almost year-to-year. Teams don’t stay up or down.”

In other words, going 10-6 did not seem to Kelly like a stepping stone to a Super Bowl run.

So Sam Bradford replaced Foles. DeMarco Murray replaced McCoy. Nelson Agholor replaced Maclin. Byron Maxwell replaced Cary Williams.

We have discussed this premise a few times this offseason. The Eagles were a winning team. They were a good team. They were not a championship team. They didn’t have the potential to be great. You can try to tweak a good team for a while and hope you can put it over the top. That generally only works when you have a franchise QB to build around. And even then it isn’t a sure thing.

Kelly loved Nick Foles as a person, but just didn’t think he was ever going to be good enough to put the team over the top. That meant something had to be done at QB. There weren’t great options so Kelly made the risky trade for Sam Bradford, a player who does have a higher ceiling than Foles.

As for the rest of the moves, age and expense had a large role in most of them. Todd Herremans and Trent Cole were simply declining players. Trading Shady netted a potential stud LB and save the team money, which it then invested in a pair of bigger, stronger and faster RBs.

The one player the Eagles didn’t want to let go was Jeremy Maclin, but KC was willing to overpay for him so the Eagles let him walk and then drafted Nelson Agholor in the 1st round.

The changes in the secondary? I don’t think anyone had much of a problem with them.

The Eagles feel like a more talented team right now. Time will tell if they are a better team…if Kelly made the right moves. He certainly had the right intentions and there is logic to everything he did, but there are risks as well. We’ll just have to wait and see which risks pan out and which ones went wrong.

* * * * *

Mark Saltveit wrote about Kelly last week. He was challenging some perceived myths about Chippah.

— “Adult millionaire NFL stars won’t go for Chip Kelly’s “college boy” hard-work-and-hustle mentality.

This is the weakest myth of all, because it normalizes and encourages immature, self-destructive behavior by players. First of all, “adult” is a stretch, since NFL rookies are one year older than college kids, and most flush out before age 26 — especially those who spend their time nightclubbing and making reality TV shows.

More importantly, the best players in the NFL of any age — Darrelle Revis, Peyton Manning,Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman — work their asses off, studying tape, learning new moves, and haunting gyms.

They’re millionaires many times over, but their goal isn’t to get rich. Those money-grubbers are the ones who disappear after their first big contract. Thereare people in the NFL who will coast on their talent and do just enough work to stay in the league and maintain their lifestyle. But Chip doesn’t want them on his team, and that’s just common sense. It will make it harder to find the  perfect players for his scheme, but to say that such players don’t exist is foolish.

I’ve got to disagree with Mark a bit here. Manning and Revis are all about money. Both guys have tried to max out every possible penny when they have had the chance. That isn’t to say they aren’t great players, but those two love their cash. I have never understood Manning’s obsession with being the highest paid player. Why not sacrifice some money and have the team spend it elsewhere? Tom Brady has done that a few times in his career.

As to Kelly and dealing with NFL players…complicated subject. Mark is right in pointing out there are plenty of high level guys that are grinders. They will work really hard regardless of who is coach. The question is really how coaches with college backgrounds will do with a team over the long term. Motivating and coaching men is different than motivating and coaching boys.

The most famous example of this is Lou Holtz. He went 33-12-3 in 4 years with NC State, including one ACC title and bowl appearances every year (back in an era when making a bowl actually meant something). Holtz left NC State to coach the NY Jets. One of the first things he did was write a fight song for the Jets. He wanted to bring some emotion to pro football. Holtz went 3-10 and was fired before the season was even over. He went to Arkansas and resumed a terrific college career.

One of the assistants on that Arkansas team was a young man named Pete Carroll. He has won big in college and the NFL. There is no question that college coaches can win in the NFL. Can they sustain success? Carroll is entering his 6th season with Seattle. Not many guys are left from the first couple of years so I doubt Carroll’s style/message are getting lost on anyone yet.

Carroll is seeing the tough side of the NFL as he has contract distractions with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett. Carroll didn’t have that issue at USC. When one star left, he just replaced him with a new star. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the northwest.

Kelly has proven that he can coach in the NFL. The big question with his is whether he can put together a Super Bowl team. After that will be the question of whether he can sustain success. The one thing we know for sure at this point is that he has clearly shown he’s not Holtz/Steve Spurrier. Those guys could not handle the NFL. Chip can coach at any level.

_


Offseason MVP – Jay Glazer?

Posted: July 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 57 Comments »

Go back and read a book about the NFL from the 1960s or 1970s. You’ll find out that even star players had offseason jobs. They might work in insurance or do some sales. A couple were actually lawyers. No one has time for that these days. The NFL is a year-round business.

Former Eagles DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy get a lot of notoriety for their partying, but even those guys put in plenty of work to stay in good shape. Some current Eagles are taking things to the next level in their pursuit of greatness.

Robert Klemko wrote a terrific piece for MMQB on Jay Glazer and the offseason training he does with NFL players, including Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, DeMarco Murray and John Moffit.

A typical day at Unbreakable consists of an unorthodox hip-focused stretching session with David Honorel (inspired, he says, by the movements of bears, crocodiles, frogs and gorillas), speed training with Liggin, weight training with an emphasis on safety, MMA work including boxing, wrestling and hand fighting with Glazer, Evans, Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner John Lewis and former UFC stars Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Glazer co-owns the gym with Brian Urlacher and Lindsey Berg, an Olympic volleyball player who now plays professionally overseas. Their faces are painted on a gym wall with the word “Unbreakable”, but it’s Glazer who runs the show, transforming fighting drills into football drills.

And

John Moffitt, the former Denver Broncos guard and now potential Eagles starter, came to Glazer after a nearly two-year hiatus from the sport during which he admits to letting his body go to a degree. He weighed 283 pounds, down from his playing weight of 320, and had the biggest gut of his life. The initial sessions were exhausting. Today he’s back above 300 pounds and slimmer than he was at 283.

“You keep hearing him say, ‘neutral face’ or ‘get your hands off your hips,’ ” Moffitt says of Glazer. “It’s very annoying when you first start that, but after a while it makes you stronger. It makes you used to being tired and used to being in pain and you don’t fight it anymore so it makes you more resilient. It just stacks on itself, on itself, on itself, to where you become a stronger individual.”

Glazer’s training can have a major impact on the Eagles.

Lane Johnson has proven to be a good RT. But he wants to be special. Glazer has gotten Johnson into the best shape of his life and has toughened him up. Johnson is a gifted athlete for his size and now should be able to combine that with improved physicality and strength. He could become an outstanding RT this year.

Ertz is a gifted receiver, but he has struggled as a blocker in his first two years. You would have to think the MMA training would be a big help to Ertz’s blocking ability. He will be stronger. He will be more physical. Ertz will have a better understanding of balance and the importance of a good power base.

Brent Celek has been a terrific TE for the Eagles for a while, but Ertz is more talented. You want Ertz on the field more than Celek, but that can’t happen until Ertz shows he can be a reliable run blocker. Ertz made a terrific decision to train with Glazer. That is the best thing he can do (outside of contact football) to improve the big hole in his game. The sky is the limit for Ertz, if he can prove to be an every-down TE.

I don’t know that there is a specific hole in Murray’s game, but it is very encouraging that a player coming off his best season and after getting a mega-deal just paid his own way to go work his butt off to try and improve. That’s the mentality Chip Kelly is desperate to find.

As for Moffitt, he is the most intriguing player of all. He has 15 career starts, the same number as Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner combined. Moffitt is in the best shape of his life and he is hungry to get back on the field. He’s not going to turn into a Pro Bowler, but if he could become a reliable starter, that would be huge.

BGN compiled some terrific Tweets from Glazer on Moffit.

“I have never been so proud of a guy I’ve trained than I am of John Moffitt. Retired two years ago bc he knew he had drug issues, took time to go to rehab, clean up his life, beat his demons and he has taken his life back! Guy inspires us every day. He came to me 3 months ago @unbreakable to train to take his career back. He’s become the favorite of every player in our gym. He officially un-retired today. Free agent starting guard. So proud of him to get here.”

“Amazing how this guy took his life back. He’s taught us in the gym a bunch about beating your demons.”

“In these past months Moffitt has been training with us we’ve also had guys like Steve Hutchinson, Shaun O’Hara & Jackie Slater come work with him.”

“Re: Moffitt, anyone who COMMITS to improving & righting his wrongs should be applauded. Life is about overcoming & improving. So proud of him.”

“Getting a little misty. Today we sent John Moffitt off to Philly. Three months of complete dedication. He showed us bad decisions CAN be overcome by better ones.”

Man, Glazer really feels strongly about Moffitt. That doesn’t mean Moffitt will pan out. It would be a great story and a lot of people will be pulling for Moffit, but the NFL is all about results. Pro football can be a cruel mistress. NFL history is full of feel-good stories that ended on the waiver wire.

If Glazer can get Lane Johnson to take the next step in his career and John Moffitt to become an effective starter, Jeff Stoutland just might be sending a Christmas card his way.

* * * * *

As far as Shady and his party…ugh. Dumb. Usually women flock to football players. Why on earth would you throw a party like this, knowing the negative attention it can bring your way?

There is nothing illegal about this or anything like that, but it just seems like a poor decision.

Unless Jimmy Bama gets invited. Then I’m all for this.

That poor cat…

_


Huff on the Rise

Posted: July 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 159 Comments »

The biggest jump for most players is from Year 1 to Year 2. Rookies have to adjust to a whole new life, on and off the field. In the second year, the player has some security off the field, knows the playbook and has a feel for pro football. He can then concentrate on honing his craft.

Jordan Matthews exploded onto the scene as a rookie. Josh Huff had much more of a typical rookie season. He flashed ability, but also made mistakes and looked…like a rookie.

Matthews might be the key to the Eagles passing game heading into 2015. Huff is hoping to earn a starting role or at least become a productive part of the offense.

There isn’t just blind optimism in regard to Huff. He is actually trying to do something about the situation. Tim McManus wrote about Huff and his efforts to be a more polished receiver. We won’t know if Huff is truly better until the season, but there is some reason for hope.

Huff had some good moments in minicamp and Chip Kelly had plenty of good things to say.

“I think he’s just more mature in terms of – he’s more comfortable; I shouldn’t say ‘mature’. I think he’s a mature young man to begin with.  I think he’s just more comfortable in terms of all the things going on around him,” said Kelly.

“You see him helping out Nelson [Agholor] and some of the undrafted guys we brought in here.  I think he’s done a real good job from that standpoint. I think he’s carrying himself in a different manner now just because I think he’s a year older.”

“I think he’s made great progress,” said Kelly. “The biggest thing with Josh is just consistency.  I think it is for most guys. When you come in as a first year player, he was obviously set back a little bit because of his injury, and then missing the first portion of the season, but then just flashed at times.  Has a kickoff return for a touchdown, which was a heck of a return.  Just a more consistent basis in terms of his performance out there.  I think he’s really been a lot more consistent, and that’s what we’ve been trying to work on with him.”

You can see a bit of Huff in action here.

Huff needs to step up to help the Eagles replace Jeremy Maclin. Give Huff an A for effort so far, but the NFL is all about results. He’ll need to start producing when Training Camp gets underway here in a couple of weeks.

* * * * *

Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson have both come out and said that DeMarco Murray left yards on the field last year. ESPN’s Ed Werder made a great point about that.

Those guys are picking on a player who just did better in one season than they ever did. How funny is that?

And I think plenty of Eagles fans would tell you that LeSean McCoy left yards on the field as well. All RBs do. Part of playing the position.

_


The Running Men

Posted: July 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 46 Comments »

When I became an Eagles fan back in the Buddy Ryan era, the team’s best RB was actually QB Randall Cunningham. After him, it was FB Keith Byars. The Eagles just didn’t  have a truly good RB. That was ironic for a couple of reasons. First, Buddy Ryan was desperate to run the ball. He wanted to run so he could control the flow of the game and help his beloved defense.

The other reason the lack of a good RB was ironic is that Eagles history is loaded with good, and even some great, RBs. I wrote about the Eagles long tradition of RB excellence for PE.com.

Aside from the all-time greats, the Eagles have had some good short term RBs. The top of that list would be Leonard Weaver. He was a RB/FB tweener that came over from Seattle. He was supposed to be the lead blocker for Westy and Shady in 2009, but Westy missed half the season. That meant Weaver got used in plenty of 1-back sets. He ran for 323 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Andy Reid should have gotten him the ball even more (what’s new?).

Expectations were sky high for 2010, but Weaver suffered a devastating injury in the season opener and never played again. It really is a shame. He had the potential to be a really interesting player.

Dorsey Levens played with the Eagles in 2002 and 2004. Both years he was signed to replace Correll Buckhalter after injuries ended his season. Levens was a great backup. In the 2 combined seasons, he ran for 821 yards and 5 TDs, while averaging 5 yards per carry. Levens was big and strong, but still had a bit of wiggle. I really enjoyed watching him, especially in 2002.

Heath Sherman played for the Eagles for 5 years, but only one of those seasons stands out. Sherman got used a lot down the stretch in 1992. He finished with 583 yards on the ground and averaged 5.2 ypc. He also averaged more than 12 yards per reception. He ran for 105 yards in the wild card win over the Saints that year. Sherman just wore down because of his physical running style and injuries cut short his career.

Earnest Jackson ran for 1,028 yards in 1985, but Buddy Ryan arrived after the season and got rid of him. Jackson was no superstar, but he was better than the RBs Buddy ended up putting on the field.

Remember when Bryce Brown was the new Bo Jackson? That didn’t last long but it was fun. His combination of size and speed was special. He just struggled with the little things that it takes to be a consistently good player.

Eagles fans have seen some really great RBs over the years.

I can’t wait to see what the guys do this year.

* * * * *

Thank god this finally happened.

* * * * *

Do you want to read this?

Jimmy laid out the reasons that each of the NFCE teams could stink this year. In order to show his journalistic integrity (insert joke here) he even did the Eagles.

_