Up Chuck?

Posted: April 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 342 Comments »

The Eagles are very interested in pass rushers in the upcoming draft. We’ve talked about a lot of different targets, but one guy has eluded discussion to this point…Charles Harris from Missouri.

Harris declared early for the draft after a 9-sack season for Mizzou. That total doesn’t begin to tell you how disruptive he was. Harris might be the most explosive pass rusher in the draft. He’s certainly one of the most disruptive. He’s 6-3, 253 and is a terrific speed rusher. 4-3 teams will want him as a DE. 3-4 teams will like him as an OLB.

Harris had a poor showing at the Combine. The guy you see on tape looks like an explosive athlete. He posted poor numbers and that got everyone a bit worried. Some of you will wonder why that’s a big deal. Game tape is significantly more important. You don’t need players to shine at the Combine, but you do want them to be at least solid, especially if their game is built on athleticism.

Luckily Harris had a much better showing at his Pro Day. His vertical jump went from 32 inches to 37.5. That shows explosion, which is what the game tape showed. That workout made me more comfortable with him. It was thought Harris would go in the late 1st or even early 2nd round. The Pro Day workout has people thinking that he might climb back up to the middle of the 1st round.

The Eagles might consider Harris a target at 14. Watch him at RDE below and you can see him down in that stance in the Eagles D.

And you can bet Jim Schwartz would have interest in that kind of an explosive edge rusher.

Is he worth pick 14?

Harris reminds me somewhat of Dwight Freeney, who was taken 11th overall. Freeney was on a different level, though. He had 17.5 sacks as a Senior. He was 266 pounds. He ran 4.48 at the Combine and had a 40-inch VJ. He wowed you on the field and with his workout.

That doesn’t mean Harris isn’t a Top 15 pick, but he’s not sure to go that high. Some teams like 250-pound edge rushers. Other teams prefer bigger guys. The Eagles could see Harris as similar to Brandon Graham, who was taken 13th overall back in 2010. Graham was 268 pounds. He tested well for speed, quickness, agility and strength. He did have a poor VJ (31 inches). Graham was a great college player and then dominated at the Senior Bowl.

Harris feels like he is a notch below Graham and Freeney, but the Eagles could still consider him worth pick 14. One thing that helps him is that Mizzou has put out a string of good DL in recent years. Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy and Shane Ray all starred for the Tigers.

Oh yeah…and his game tape is really impressive.

https://twitter.com/DaBigEasy24/status/843968146696486916

I don’t know if the Eagles will take Harris at 14, but I don’t think he’ll be sliding to the end of the 1st.

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The Case for Dalvin

Posted: April 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 128 Comments »

More than a few people would like the Eagles to draft Dalvin Cook. The original hope was that the Eagles would take him 14th overall. That’s not going to happen. The question with Cook is how far he falls. Could he fall to the 2nd round? Could be fall all the way to the Eagles pick in the 2nd round?

Cook was a great college player. He has the chance to be a terrific pro. There are just a lot of questions with him that affect his value. Those questions might or might not affect his pro career. For now, they will affect where he is drafted.

Based solely on game tape, Cook is a 1st round talent.

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/853646695669706752

Cook looks special in those clips.

The argument for Cook is that the talent in those clips makes him worth taking a chance on. Dallas rolled the dice on Ezekiel Elliott. There were character questions about him prior to last year’s draft and Elliott has done nothing to make himself look good off the field. You can argue he’s the best player in the NFC East on the field, but Dallas has to be nervous about his behavior. The Steelers love Le’Veon Bell as a player, but have concerns with him off the field. It has to be intimidating to make a big financial commitment to him when there is so much risk involved.

Cook could put his team in a similar situation. Is it worth it?

The Eagles could certainly make a case for taking him. Carson Wentz, Brent Celek, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are all high character players on offense. If you took Cook and added him to that mix, those players would offer the right kind of support system for him. One of the benefits to having a group of high character players is that you can take chances on risky players to mix in with them. Rex Ryan used to tell Ravens scouts that “if you have enough ants, they can carry a cockroach”. That’s a weird analogy, but I think the overall point comes through.

The Eagles could even consider trading up from their 2nd round pick to the early 2nd or even late 1st if they felt strongly enough about Cook. I have no idea if they do. He seems to think the Eagles like him, but prospects sometimes confuse attention and concern.

This draft is loaded with RBs so the Eagles will only make an aggressive play for Cook if they love him.

It is going to be so interesting to see if they make a play for him or what they do to add a RB. The team could be patient and get one in the mid-rounds or they could target someone early (McCaffrey in the 1st or Cook/Kamara in the 2nd).

*****

Another potential target for the 2nd round.

Or he could be of interest if the Eagles decide to move back. I don’t see him in the mix at 14.

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What’s Going on at 14?

Posted: April 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 196 Comments »

The draft is getting closer, but we still don’t have a great feel for what the Eagles are going to do with pick 14.

Most people would love to give the Eagles a CB. But who will be there and who is worth it? I have Marshawn Lattimore as my top rated CB. I think he’ll go in the Top 10. His teammate Gareon Conley is a player the Eagles would have serious interest in, but there is now a question of whether he will make it to pick 14. His ball skills plus his ability to play the slot or outside make him a valuable target.

The next couple of corners for me are Tre’Davious White and Kevin King. Are they worth pick 14? Maybe. The argument for White is that he excelled against SEC competition, which is usually the best of the best. He can play in the slot or outside. He isn’t a great athlete, but is a natural cover corner. He was the best CB at the Senior Bowl. King is taller, faster and quicker. He is a better hitter and tackler. King was versatile at UW, but needs to play outside in the NFL.

You can argue each of them is worth the pick, but it isn’t a slam dunk.

The Eagles have shown a lot of interest in pass rushers. They could go for Tennessee star Derek Barnett. It isn’t a lock he’ll be on the board, but if he is, Barnett would make a lot of sense for the Eagles. He’s productive, tough, and smart. He was at his best against the best competition. Barnett isn’t a special athlete, but his game tape is outstanding.

The only other DEs who could be in the mix at 14 are Takk McKinley from UCLA and T.J. Watt from Wisconsin. Pick 14 feels early for them,. but you never know which players a team will fall in love with. Watt is taller and more athletic. He played 3-4 OLB at Wisconsin. McKinley has longer arms and did some great things as a DE for UCLA.

Alabama LB Reuben Foster came to Philly for a visit. I just can’t see the Eagles taking him. Good player, but his shoulder stinger issues are a concern for a player that is such a big hitter. There are also some reports that he hasn’t come off well when meeting with teams. You only take a 4-3 LB in the Top 15 when it is a slam dunk pick, like Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly.

Do the Eagles have to go defense?

What about a RB? Leonard Fournette will almost certainly be gone. Dalvin Cook seems to think the Eagles like him.

The Eagles might just like Cook. But I feel pretty confident in saying he won’t be the pick at 14. There are just too many issues with him. It is more likely that the Eagles are trying to figure out if he is worth moving back in the 1st round for or if they would try to move up in the 2nd to get him. Based on all the chatter, it sounds like Cook might be sliding to the 2nd round.

Watch his game tape and you see a special RB. But there are character concerns. Shoulder concerns. Fumbling concerns. Workout concerns. That’s a lot of baggage for a RB.

Christian McCaffrey is the only other RB who could go that high. There is speculation now that he’ll go in the Top 10. He is the kind of player I could see Doug Pederson, Joe Douglas and Howie Roseman loving. McCaffrey was a great college player. Great athlete. High character. Very versatile. The Eagles haven’t shown any public interest in him. Are they hiding something? Are they focused on other players? I wouldn’t be shocked if the team took McCaffrey. That’s not ideal for me, but if you have the right plan on how to use him, it could make some sense.

The Eagles could still add a WR. Corey Davis and Mike Williams are both strong prospects. You could make a good case for each of them at pick 14. I prefer Davis of the two. John Ross, the explosive speedster from Washington, is very interesting, but his injury history is a concern.

There is an outside chance the Eagles could go for an OL, but this isn’t a strong group so I don’t think the value will be there.

If I had to list the most likely picks:

1 – CB Gareon Conley
2 – DE Derek Barnett
3 – WR Corey Davis
4 – DE Takk McKinley
5 – CB Tre’Davious White

We’ll see if that list changes in the next couple of weeks.

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Health

Posted: April 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 72 Comments »

You can say what you want about Chip Kelly’s tenure as Eagles coach, but he left one very positive legacy…the Sports Science program. Chip might have been a bit over the top with pushing players to live a certain lifestyle, but the overall ideas of the program have worked well for the Eagles.

Chris McPherson just wrote a good piece for PE.com on how healthy the Eagles have been since 2013.

Football Outsiders released its annual study on the amount of “Adjusted Games Lost” due to injury for 2016. The Eagles had the fourth-lowest total in the league at just 38.4 games, behind only Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL in 2013, and has not placed worse than sixth since then. Football Outsiders not only takes the amount of games that players were sidelined, but also factors in their level of involvement because the loss of a starter counts more than an inactive player on gameday.

Yes, the implementation of the Eagles’ sports science program coincides with the recent trend of good health, but director of high performance Shaun Huls says that it is only one part of the equation.

“The thing I think about is the team approach,” Huls said on Tuesday. “I think it shows that there is a good synergy throughout the entire team to support the guys and keep them healthy.”

And

“We’re in a people business. The strength of that information goes as far as what level of relationship you have with that person. It helps with establishing a relationship of trust back and forth, and communication and everyone going in the same direction,” Huls said. “As you monitor guys, train with guys, give them feedback on their progressions, it raises awareness of what they need to do to take care of themselves. I think that was the biggest part, the continuity of training amongst the staff, the consistency of language with the players, and then just being transparent with that information.

“Transparency helps with the guys understanding what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That changes the conversation in the locker room in terms of how they’re going to recover and what type of training they need from an individual standpoint.”

Whatever they are doing and however they are doing it…sure seems to be working. Let’s hope this trend continues into the future. The frustrating part about this is that the Eagles haven’t been able to take advantage of being healthy. Consecutive 7-9 seasons aren’t anyone’s idea of success (okay, maybe Browns fans).

One interesting nugget in relation to the draft:

The process begins before most players ever set foot inside the NovaCare Complex. The scouting department looks for players with a favorable injury history, as that is a good predictor of their future.

Does John Ross have any chance of being drafted?

Ouch.

I’m no doctor or injury expert. The Eagles obviously have guys that know what to look for with prospects. They aren’t simply looking for players who didn’t miss many games. They want to see if nagging injuries affected performance. They want to know how a player is going to handle the grind of the NFL. College kids play 12 to 14 games. NFL players have a tough Training Camp, 4 preseason games, 16 regular season games and hopefully some playoff games. You could have a rookie go from 12 college games to 24 NFL games. Not every body is ready for that.

There also is the question of value. Jordan Hicks had his share of injuries at Texas, but the Eagles felt he was too good to pass up at pick 84 in 2015. They rolled the dice on him and it paid off. Hicks did miss half his rookie season, but was healthy last year. And there is no question that he is a terrific talent.

When you evaluate someone like Ross, you have to worry about that history. How will he handle the NFL? Ross is a Top 15 talent, but his health is a legit concern and will likely drop him more toward the bottom of the 1st round. One of Chip’s dorky sayings that was actually dead on the money…the key ability is availability. The best player in the world does you know good if he can’t play.

The Eagles have tough decisions to make on several prospects.

  • CB Sidney Jones – Achilles tear at Pro Day
  • TE Jake Butt – tore ACL in bowl game
  • LB Alex Anzalone – only played in 18 games in 4 years
  • DT Jonathan Allen – arthritic condition in shoulders
  • RB Dalvin Cook – shoulder issues
  • WR Mike Williams – serious neck injury in 2015
  • LB Reuben Foster – serious stinger issues

That’s only scratching the surface there are plenty of prospects who have questions. The Eagles will give positive reviews to some of the players, but will take others off the draft board. We’ll see what happens in a couple of weeks.

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Name Chasing

Posted: April 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 173 Comments »

The Eagles should trade for Richard Sherman!!!

No wait, what about Joe Haden?

Feel free to insert the name of another star player. Any way you slice it, these don’t sound like good ideas. The Eagles are in the process of trying to build a championship team. Draft picks are crucial to that process. You don’t want to trade picks for veterans unless the price is right.

Richard Sherman is still a darn good CB. But he’s also 29 years old. And the fact Seattle is either shopping him or actively listening to offers tells you they are open to dealing him. Why would they do that? He’s a declining player (from great to very good at this point) and this draft class is loaded with CBs. Seattle can draft a couple and hope to find a younger, cheaper CB who can take his place.

I think the Haden thing is pure speculation, but that’s another bogus idea. He will turn 28 this spring, but has only played in 18 games over the past 2 years and his play is declining.

If either of the players was available for the right price, I’d be fine with taking a chance on them. Trades can be beneficial when trying to build a team. Where would Seattle be if they hadn’t dealt for Marshawn Lynch? You have to remember that Seattle gave up a 4th round pick and a 5th round pick to get him. That is worlds different than pick 14 overall.

If the Eagles were coming off a couple of outstanding seasons and it felt like the team was just one player away from getting to the Super Bowl, that would change the equation. That’s not the case right now. The Eagles situation in 2017 is going to heavily depend on how Carson Wentz plays. If he takes a big step forward, this team can be a contender. If he is inconsistent, the team will likely be the same.

I know some people will make the argument that the Eagles would be better off with Sherman or Haden than Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith or whatever bust you choose to insert in that scenario. The draft is risky. No question about that.

Those people fail to mention the Eagles could land the next Fletcher Cox or whichever star player you want to insert in that scenario. If you hit on a 1st round pick, it can be huge for your team for a while because you add young, cheap talent.

I miss the days when Jerry Jones would trade for Roy Williams, sign Terrell Owens and covet every star player on other teams. He’s backed off that now and lets his football people focus on the draft. Dallas has hit on some key picks and built up a strong OL and very talented offense, all home grown. You have to trust your football people to draft and then develop players.

I’m all for using trades and free agency to help your team, but you want to build the bulk of the roster using the draft. That means keeping your picks and taking chances. There will be some busts. But if you hit on enough of them, you can build a really good team. The Eagles have a good core in place. They need another draft or two to help push this group over the top.

Unless someone has a fire sale, this just isn’t the time to be dealing for veterans.

*****

When I mention the Eagles are building, some people take that to mean that winning is somehow not to be expected. That’s not the case at all. The Eagles were building in 2000 when they won 11 games and even a playoff game. They were building in 2001 when they won 11 games, the division title and reached the NFC Championship Game. You can build and win at the same time.

I expect the Eagles to be a playoff contender this season. I don’t expect them to win 13 games and be the #1 seed in the NFC. It would be great if the team is ahead of schedule and that happens, but a lot of things would need to go right.

You don’t want to count on all those things happening.

The organization has preached patience this offseason because they are taking a long term approach. If the Eagles did want the best possible team for just one season, then trading for Sherman would be the smart move. When you are trying to build a team that can sustain winning for several years, you have to balance being patient and aggressive.

The Eagles aggressively went out and got Carson Wentz.

This year they are trying to be patient as they try to build around him.

But the goal is still to win games. This isn’t about stockpiling talent for some magical year in the future. The Eagles want to win. They want to be a playoff team this season. They are keeping one eye on that and one eye on the future. With young stars like Carson Wentz and Fletcher Cox, that is absolutely the right thing to do.

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