An Interesting Comparison

Posted: July 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 44 Comments »

Let me see if  I have this description right.

Big – yes.

Strong arm – yes.

Athletic – yes.

Loves to throw downfield – yes.

Is that Carson Wentz…or Ben Roethlisberger? Watch college highlights of the two and tell me how similar they look to you.

And now Carson

I think you will see more than a few similarities.

Go by the numbers.

Ben

6-5, 241
40 – 4.81
VJ – 30 inches
SS – 4.32
3C – 6.81

Carson

6-5, 237
40 – 4.77
VJ – 30.5
SS – 4.15
3C – 6.86

That’s almost kinda crazy, huh?

If Carson can have anything close to Big Ben’s career, the Eagles will have made a great investment. The Steelers played in one Super Bowl between 1980 and 2003, losing to Dallas in 1995. They drafted Ben in 2004 and have been to 3 Super Bowls, winning a pair of them. Pittsburgh was a very good franchise before Ben got there, but they couldn’t get over the hump.

People love to talk about winning titles based on defense. Sure the Ravens did it in 2000 and the Bucs in 2002. Denver somewhat did that last year, although their offense was middle of the pack, not bad. But those tend to be anomalies. Ask Steelers fans of the 1990’s about trying to win the big game by running the ball and playing good defense. They couldn’t do it. Once they got their QB, the world changed.

I know there are some concerns with Carson. Will the jump from a small school to the NFL be too much? Can he learn to read defenses quicker? Does he hold the ball too long? Those were all concerns with Ben and he overcame them, although he still holds the ball too long at times. That weakness also helps him to create some big plays.

There is no doubting the fact Carson has a lot of talent. His potential is through the roof.

Now it is up to Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo to take that potential and turn it into good NFL results.

I can’t wait to see him play this summer.

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Factoring in Factors

Posted: July 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »

Josh Huff sucks. The Eagles need to cut him. Mychal Kendricks didn’t have a good year in 2015. I’m done with him. Marcus Smith is so bad he makes those guys look like stars. LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These are the kind of comments some fans will make in regard to young players that have been inconsistent, disappointing or flat out bad.The problem we have with young players is knowing what’s cold, hard reality versus what is circumstantial. Circumstances do matter. For some reason, people don’t like to admit that. I guess it is easier to make a snap judgment than to consider a world where external factors can sometimes play a critical role in a person’s success or failure.

Reggie White was dominant at Tennessee, in the USFL, playing for Buddy Ryan, for Bud Carson and then for the Packers. Mike Mamula was terrific in college, where his athleticism let him get the best of blockers on a consistent basis. Mamula was less effective in the NFL, where blockers could match his athleticism. Trent Cole was solid in college, but undersized. Cole came to the NFL and got bigger and stronger. That enhanced the physicality in his game and helped him to be an even better pro than college player.

That’s the most basic version. The truly special player is special no matter what. Other players go up and down based on other factors.

Fred Barnett was a terrific WR for the Eagles in the early 1990s. He and Randall Cunningham formed a deadly duo and had a few spectacular highlight plays. Barnett averaged 69-1053-5 in his 3 full, healthy seasons (he tore an ACL in 1993). Then Jon Gruden was hired to come in with the WCO. Barnett struggled throughout 1995. He hated the WCO, where he suddenly was running more across the field than down it. Barnett wasn’t a RAC guy. He started 14 games that year and went 48-585-5. Barnett was 29 years old. He was coming off his best season. Barnett didn’t like the offense and it didn’t fit his skills. He left in the offseason.

Irving Fryar came home to Philly in 1996, at the age of 34. He proved to be a perfect fit for the WCO and had the best season of his career, going 88-1195-11. That wasn’t a fluke. He posted similar numbers in 1997.

Scheme fit matters. It is very real and can make a huge difference, as it did there.

There really are a lot of factors to consider when evaluating a player. Scheme, fit, age, health, money, teammates, family, coaching staff are just some of the things to keep in mind when evaluating performance. Some things you know, some you don’t. Remember Sam Rayburn (the DT, not the politician)? He was a UDFA that showed a ton of promise and at one point he was a key piece of the trade for TO. The Niners really wanted him and the Eagles weren’t about to let him go. Rayburn had 6 sacks in 2004 and was really impressive. But then he got hurt and became addicted to painkillers. The injury didn’t take him off the field, but it greatly affected his performance and the drugs changed his life from a dream to a nightmare.

I remember Marcus Hayes being critical of Brian Dawkins following the 1998 season. We all saw Dawk’s talent, but there was some inconsistency. The perfect storm hit in 1999. Dawk entered his fourth season, the prime of his career, and got to play for Jim Johnson, who saw him as a unique talent and not just a good FS. Brian Dawkins went from talented young DB to elite player seemingly overnight. Great timing by the Football Gods in that case.

Greg Lewis is the new WRs coach. Can he make a difference with Josh Huff? What about the designers of the playbook, Doug Pederson and Frank Reich? Maybe their schematic changes will fit him perfectly. There is also the panic factor. Huff has to get going or he will get gone. That sense of desperation can bring out the best in a player. There are only so many “next years” before you find yourself out of the league. Huff has NFL ability. He’s got to show he can be a reliable performer, which is a lot easier said than done.

Kendricks has been a good NFL player. Just not in 2015. The problem there is that once your performance slips, there are no guarantees you will get back on the right track. Reggie Brown was a productive WR for the Eagles from 2005-2007. He caught 160 passes for 16 TDs in that span. He wasn’t great to be sure, but showed real potential. And then he got DeSean’d. The Eagles brought in DeSean Jackson in 2008. Brown was hurt in the OTAs and DeSean took his place with the starters. Reggie never got that spot back. It was like the rookie destroyed his confidence. Reggie only caught 27 passes in the NFL after that.

Did the presence of stud rookie Jordan Hicks bother Kendricks last year? Maybe. It is certainly worth considering. This year they will play together, but it isn’t certain that Kendricks will get back to his 2014 form. It would help a lot if he did.

Marcus Smith is a great mystery man. He has done virtually nothing in 2 years so the clock is really ticking on his career. Either he wakes up in a major way this summer or he’s hitting Jimmy Bama up for an internship with Philly Voice next year. It is easy to say Smith is a bust and he’s done. But history shows that’s not necessarily true.

Jerry Hughes, a tweener DE/LB, was a 1st round pick by the Colts. After 2 years, he had played in 24 games with 1 start. He had 1 sack in that time. Things finally clicked in his third season and he jumped to 6 starts and 4 sacks. The next season he only started once, but had 10 sacks and became a terrific role player. Hughes had to adjust to the NFL. He had to get bigger and stronger. The coaches had to figure out how to use him. It took time, but luckily both sides kept working and Hughes is now considered a good pass rusher. He’s got 30 career sacks.

The coaching and scheme change may bring out the best in Hughes. Or he might prove to be another Jerome McDougle, the player who was constantly about to turn things around, but never got to start an NFL game.

We’re going to learn a lot about the young players on the Eagles in 2016. Let’s just hope most of that is good.

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Some Love for the LBs

Posted: July 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 65 Comments »

The Andy Reid era was mostly fun. Lots of winning. Some great players and great moments. One problem throughout those years was linebacker play. The Eagles struggled to get consistently good LB play. Carlos Emmons was a steady presence at SAM. Jeremiah Trotter was outstanding for a few years. Shawn Barber had one great season. Stewart Bradley had one outstanding season. Chris Gocong flashed here and there, but could never break through and become a flat out good LB.

The last time the Eagles had a great set of 4-3 LBs was 1995. William Thomas was a stud at WLB. Kurt Gouviea was a good MLB. And people forget about Bill Romanowski at SAM. That group was good against the run and pass. They picked off 10 passes. The defense was 4th in the league in yards allowed.

In 1994 you have Willie T, Romo and Byron Evans. That was an elite set of LBs right up until BE’s injury. The 1991-1993 teams were even better with Willie T, BE, and Seth Joyner. That was an amazing set of LBs.

I do think the Eagles have the potential to have outstanding LB play this year and wrote about that for PE.com. There are concerns as well, and I covered them, but there is reason for optimism. The players are talented. There is continuity. The DC and LB coach have a good track record with getting good LB play. There are no strange projections here.

The Eagles played the Wide 9 back in 2011 and 2012. Rookie Casey Matthews was the MLB in 2011 and struggled. Jamar Chaney played inside and outside. He struggled. Brian Rolle, who I used to love, played some WLB and was inconsistent. Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton were also on that team.

LB was upgraded in the offseason. DeMeco Ryans took over at MLB. Mychal Kendricks was drafted and Juan Castillo put him at SAM, which seemed very strange at the time. Rolle lost his mojo, and his job. Jordan and Chaney split time as the third starter.

Compare those 2 sets to the projected trio of Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, now a veteran player. Those guys each have shown good NFL talent and they each fit their position. I think this group has the potential to be outstanding. There are no promises, of course. Hicks has to stay healthy. Kendricks has to bounce back from a disappointing season. Bradham is new to the Eagles and there is always some mystery when players change teams.

The last time the Eagles ran the 4-3 and got good LB play was 2008. That was Gocong, Bradley and Omar Gaither. I think the current group has the potential to be better than them and I’m excited to see what these guys do in 2016.

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The Count

Posted: July 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 61 Comments »

Blake Countess feels like an overlooked rookie. He played well at Michigan before transferring to Auburn as a grad student. Countess was terrific for the Tigers and deserved more attention from the NFL than he got. There was no invite to the Senior Bowl or Combine, so Countess had to put on a show at his Pro Day to generate some buzz.

Per Gil Brandt:

Cornerback Blake Countess — 5-9 3/4, 184 — ran the 40 in 4.5 and 4.48 seconds. He had a 36 1/2-inch vertical and 10-foot-1 broad jump. He did the short shuttle in 4.19 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.85 seconds. He also performed 21 reps on the bench press. He worked out well enough to get earn a camp look by an NFL team.

Go beyond those numbers. Listen to the young man talk. He comes across as intelligent, insightful and honest.

Countess was versatile for Auburn, playing CB, Nickel, S and being a key on STs. And remember that he was new to the team as of last summer. He fit in right away and they used him aggressively and creatively to help their defense. Countess finished fourth on the team in tackles. He broke up 11 passes and picked off 2 more. He had 2.5 TFLs and even blocked a kick.

That video shows some good things. You see physicality. Countess might list at only 5-10, 184, but he is thick and muscular. He hits. He takes on blockers. He is not a finesse player in any way. We talk about all of the bad tackling in football. Countess is one of the few prospects who shows good fundamentals. He attacks the belt buckle of the runner/receiver, as many coaches teach players to do. Countess doesn’t go for ankles. He doesn’t sell out for huge hits. He aims for the middle and tries to make wrap-up tackles using his whole body to bring his target down.

I also like the fact Countess is aggressive, but plays under control. It can be fun to watch a defender fly around the field at 100 mph, but that is also very dangerous. Safeties are at their best when diagnosing the play and then attacking. Countess does a good job of that.

Countess should be a good fit at Safety in the Eagles scheme under Jim Schwartz. Fran Duffy and Greg Cosell took at look at how he would fit in a couple of plays.

I think the Eagles got very lucky that Countess lasted to the 6th round. I’m not putting him into the Hall of Fame quite yet, but I do believe he can be a good backup and role player. I think he has the potential to develop into a starter.

I look forward to seeing Countess in action in Training Camp. Jalen Mills is the rookie DB getting all the attention right now, but don’t forget about Countess. He could end up being the #3 Safety for this team, as well as a key STer.

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A Learning Year

Posted: July 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 55 Comments »

Training Camp is still 3 weeks away, but this seems like a good time to discuss a possible starting lineup. Injuries will likely have their say on who starts, but let’s assume everyone is healthy for now (which they actually are at this point).

The lineup I would like to see:

QB Sam Bradford
RB Ryan Mathews
WR Nelson Agholor
WR Josh Huff
Slot Jordan Matthews
TE Zach Ertz
LT Jason Peters
LG Isaac Seumalo
C Jason Kelce
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Lane Johnson

DE Connor Barwin
DT Fletcher Cox
DT Bennie Logan
DE Vinny Curry
WB Mychal Kendricks
MB Jordan Hicks
SB Nigel Bradham
SS Malcolm Jenkins
FS Rodney McLeod
CB Leodis McKelvin
CB Eric Rowe

The Eagles can compete for the NFC East title this year, but that’s a combination of a solid roster and a bad division. It doesn’t mean the Eagles are on the verge of something special.

The 2016 season should be a mixture of trying to win and trying to find out if the young guys can play. So why not Carson Wentz? Notice I said “young guys” and not rookies. The only rookie I have in the lineup is LG Isaac Seumalo. The rest of the young guys are second and third year players. They have potential, but also question marks.

One thing to keep in mind is that I’m not saying the coaches should just give those jobs to young players. I’m assuming those players will win their position battles or at least be close. If Allen Barbre is a little bit better than Seumalo, is it worth putting the guy in his 30’s on the field over the rookie who has a lot more potential?

If a veteran is clearly better, you have to play that guy. Eric Rowe didn’t have a strong spring. He needs a good summer to beat out Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks and everyone else he’s battling against. Jalen Mills did have a good spring. He needs to be even better this summer to show he’s the real deal and someone the Eagles should consider starting.

At TE, Brent Celek is still better all-around than Ertz. But Ertz isn’t going to become a better blocker by sitting. He needs to get on the field on run and pass plays. Celek was a poor blocker when he was drafted. He became good by working at it. Ertz has the potential to be a good blocker.

DE is probably the toughest spot for me. I want to reward Curry, Barwin and Brandon Graham. I went with Barwin based on the fact he is such a strong team leader. It helps when those guys are starters. I would split the reps pretty evenly among the trio, but I would give Barwin the starting nod. This is purely semantics, but there are times when that stuff matters.

I sure hope that defense can stay healthy. I want to see those guys play together in this system and for this coaching staff. We haven’t had a really good defense in a while. There were impressive stretches under Bill Davis, but not entire seasons. This could be a good year for the D.

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