Appreciating Nick

Posted: April 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 118 Comments »

I was over looking around PE.com and saw they had a Player Profile up on Nick Foles. I almost didn’t watch it, but decided to go ahead and click it. Glad I did.

There’s nothing special or groundbreaking in this video. It just occurred to me while watching it that we’ve spent the last few months looking pass rushers, DBs, WRs and various other positions, but the Eagles are basically set at QB. They can take one if they want, but only if it is a player they love.

There is no need for a QB.

It felt good to watch Foles in action and know that the Eagles have a good young QB already in place. Sometimes we spend so much time and energy focused on what we don’t have and all the players we want that we forget how lucky we are to have the key piece in place. You don’t win without the right QB running the show.

I can’t wait to see Nick in action this year. His numbers won’t be as good, but I bet he’ll have a terrific season.

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Instant Impact

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 59 Comments »

Someone asked an interesting question the other day. They wanted to know what player or position would be most likely to come in and win a starting job by opening day. Sounds simple enough, but that is actually a tough question to answer. Let’s start by taking a look at the projected lineup on defense.

DE Fletcher Cox
NT Bennie Logan
DE Cedric Thornton
ROLB Trent Cole
ILB DeMeco Ryans
ILB Mychal Kendricks
LOLB Connor Barwin
S Malcolm Jenkins
S Nate Allen/Earl Wolff
CB Cary Williams
CB Bradley Fletcher

There aren’t any holes, per se. There are certainly spots that can be upgraded. NT, S and CB are iffy.

Bennie Logan showed promise in 2013, but does need to play better this year. If the Eagles spent a 1st round pick on someone like Louis Nix, it is certainly possible that he could win the starting job.

The Eagles brought Nate Allen back because they like him. That said, he’s here on a 1-year deal and isn’t a player that anyone is in love with. The right rookie could steal that job away. Earl Wolff could play either role…the guy who takes Allen’s job or the guy who loses the startin gig to the rookie.

Both CBs had ups and downs last year. A rookie who plays well could steal a job from either guy.

As much as we all want an upgrade at OLB, don’t assume that means the rookie will get Trent Cole’s job ASAP. Cole got better as the year went on in 2013. He’s a smart, tough, proud veteran that won’t give up his job easily. The rookie would have to win the job. Trent won’t be giving it away.

Obviously I’m leaving injuries out of the equation. They open doors for all rookies on every team. 

I don’t anticipate a rookie winning a starting job on offense. I guess RG and WR could be possible. It just seems like the offense played so well last year that Chip Kelly will try to keep the same players in place as much as he can. You never know when a rookie will play lights out, but that is more of the exception than the rule.

My expectation for the first couple of picks is that they’ll be somewhat like Zach Ertz. They’ll have roles and get more playing time as the season moves along. Ertz was behind schedule due to the dumb NFL rule about him not being able to practice until his class had graduated. That hurt his development. Hopefully these rookies will have more impact early on, but my point is that they won’t be forced into the starting lineup. They’ll be worked into the lineup and then be rewarded with more snaps if they play well.

Really good teams don’t have to rely on rookies. Go check out the Seahawks draftees and then think about the impact those guys had in 2013. I’m not saying the Eagles are at that level. It takes time to build up the team to get to that point. But…the Eagles are a good team that doesn’t have obvious holes in the lineup. Don’t get caught in the mindset that rookies who don’t play a ton right away are somehow failures.

I do think Kelly’s background in college means that he will be open to playing rookies, even on a good team. Some old school coaches obsess on having veterans in the lineup. Kelly had young guys playing all the time at Oregon so he’s not afraid to give young guys a chance. The Packers have done a terrific job of embracing rookies and continuing to be a top flight team.

As much as I’d love a rookie to come in and play great, it would be a better sign for the overall team if none of the new guys cracks the starting lineup this year.

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Q&A

Do you think Keith McGill is a “perfect fit” for what Eagles want at CB? Not perfect, but he has the size the Eagles love and he’s a good press corner, which is what Bill Davis prefers. McGill is 25, which hurts his value, and I don’t think he has great ball skills.

Do you see Eagles making any more trades at all, including trading up or down, this offseason?  I would be surprised if the Eagles sat still this draft. There are going to be a lot of good players available. That could mean trading up to get one or moving back because some team offered you a good deal.

Favorite non-first round OLB? Jeremiah Attaochu, who might be a 1st rounder. If not him, then Marcus Smith.

Could Mychal Kendricks move to OLB? No. He doesn’t have the frame to take on OTs on run plays. He’s also not a gifted pass rusher. Kendricks can blitz, but that’s different than rushing the passer. Blitzing is more about running and timing. Rushing the passer requires athleticism and specific skills.

What were Dawk’s limitations when he came out? Why did he go in the 2nd round? Dawk was the last pick of the 2nd round so it is even worse than you think. Dawk was a S/CB tweener. He didn’t have the ideal size for S, but didn’t have ideal skills for corner. He got bigger and stronger in the NFL and became a great player. Maybe we’ll talk more about this in the summer.

Why trade up for Anthony Barr when you can trade pick 22 for Dion Jordan? Good logic, but the problem is Miami might not deal Jordan at all. The Eagles have talked to the Dolphins. I think they’ve let Miami know they’re very interested. If no deal gets done, that likely means Miami wants to keep Jordan.

What are the odds that the Eagles move back in the draft? I really struggle with this question. I want more picks. No doubt about that. But there is another part of me that keeps reminding me that the Eagles don’t have a ton of holes. There is something to be said for staying put, or even moving up. The 2014 Eagles need quality more than quantity from the draft.

I hope the team moves back 8 to 10 spots and adds a 3rd and 4th or 3rd and 5th…something like that. This, of course, assumes that there isn’t an ideal player on the board at 22. If the right guy falls, take him there and don’t be greedy.

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 64 Comments »

Chip Kelly and his coaches have ideal player types. They want tall, athletic OL. They want OLBs that can rush, cover and play the run. They prefer tall, long CBs that can press. And so on.

Wanting those players and finding those players are 2 different things.

Teams have a limited set of choices. As I like to joke, they can’t just go down to the Player Store and head to the LB aisle. “Let’s see if pass rushers are on sale this week or if maybe they’ve got the brand new models in. They’re expensive, but man are they cool.”

While Kelly and Bill Davis might want complete OLBs, they’ll have to settle for what they can get. The same is true at most positions. Safety is another such spot. Davis has talked about the fact he wants to get to the point where there is no FS or SS,  but rather similar players that are the Right Safety and Left Safety.

That is a great goal, but the draft isn’t loaded with Safeties who are complete players. The Eagles brought in Deone Bucannon for a visit. He’s 6-1, 216, which is big for a Safety. He is a physical hitter with some coverage limitations. This shows you that the Eagles are being realistic.

Would you rather have a Safety that has okay ability vs the run and pass or would you rather have someone who can be a physical presence and then needs work on his cover skills?

There is no right answer, per se. The argument for a guy like Bucannon is that he can at least stand out in one area. He might have some issues, but that might be worth it if he can be a difference-maker at what he does well. You hope that the player then develops skills in the area where he is deficient. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The Eagles are being reasonable with their expectations. They have talked to a pair of OL that at 6-3, 310. They looked at Will Clarke, a DT/DE tweener, as a potential OLB. They’ve shown interest in CBs that lack the Eagles preferred size.

The interesting part of all this will be to see where the Eagles make compromises, so to speak. And then it will be interesting to see how those players work out over time.

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Anthony Barr, CJ Spiller…Big Rumor Day

Posted: April 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

The most interesting nugget of the day comes from Geoff Mosher. He reported on Monday that the Eagles called Buffalo to inquire about C.J. Spiller.

Before they traded for Darren Sproles, the Eagles first tried to add a younger, more dynamic weapon to their offense.

The Eagles contacted the Bills this offseason with hopes of trading for versatile Pro Bowl running back C.J. Spiller, according to two league sources familiar with the situation. The Bills weren’t interested in moving Spiller, both sources said, and talks never heightened into an offer.

But it’s clear that the Eagles were looking to add a different dimension to their offense as they prepared to part ways with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson, another indication that Chip Kelly had planned to move on from Jackson well before the team released him March 28.

Spiller would be an ideal player for Kelly and his offense. Spiller can be a WR or RB. And he has explosive speed. He is a home run threat any time he touches the ball.

It sounds like the Eagles called to see if Spiller was available, not that the Bills were shopping him. It can’t hurt to ask, but obviously the idea got shot down pretty quickly.

It is interesting to find out that Kelly wanted a dynamic receiving RB. The Sproles addition seemed like just an opportunistic move. Asking about Spiller shows you that Kelly wanted that kind of a specific player.

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Tim McManus posted another interesting nugget. He reported that OLB Anthony Barr will be coming to Philly for a pre-draft visit. Within that piece, there is another bit of news I wasn’t aware of.

In a recent podcast on the team’s website, Brian Baldinger said that Eagles outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern went to UCLA to work Barr out.

“Say he’s there at 15 or 16. And I’m well aware that the Eagles only have six draft picks, they don’t have a whole lot of ammunition. But if that’s your biggest glaring need — and to me, the right outside linebacker position would complete this defense in some ways — why wouldn’t you be aggressive?” Baldinger asked.

So we now have Bill McGovern going to West Va to work out Will Clarke, a mid-rounder, and going to UCLA to work out Barr, a 1st rounder. Interesting.

I’m sure the Eagles do have serious interest in Barr. He is the kind of OLB I think they would love. Barr is 6-5, 255. He is an athletic edge rusher, but can also cover and play in space. Chip will have some knowledge of Barr from his Oregon days. He might have even recruited Barr a few years back.

If Barr falls far enough, I’d move up for him. The problem is that I just don’t expect Barr to fall that far.

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Jimmy Bama has a good nugget of his own. He says that the Eagles have shown serious interest in OLB prospect Ronald Powell from Florida. The former No. 1 high school player in the country didn’t have the college career that he expected.

Powell is an intriguing prospect. His college career hit a bump when he tore his ACL during the spring of 2012. Powell missed the entire 2012 season, but returned in 2013, when he had 4 sacks. Unless you’re Adrian Peterson, there’s a belief that it takes 2 years or longer to fully recover from a torn ACL.

Powell would be a mid-to-late round pick, but would be a good target. He could develop into a starter or might prove to be an effective backup and STer. He is a gifted athlete.

Jimmy has some videos over at the link. Go check ‘em out.

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Why don’t we stick with the OLB topic?

Chip Kelly was at Smith’s Pro Day. The Eagles also saw him up close at the Senior Bowl. Either they have serious interest or they are putting on a heck of a smokescreen. My guess is that Smith could go in the late 2nd round.

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UConn DE/LB Jesse Joseph worked out with the Eagles a few days ago.

None of the other Connecticut participants outside of Smallwood and Stephen are likely to be drafted, but the best prospect among the rest is defensive end Jesse Joseph, who had a fairly strong showing in his pro day workout.

Joseph put his versatility as an edge defender on display by participating in both defensive end and linebacker drills. He showed explosion going through the defensive line drills. Though he looked somewhat unnatural backpedaling and flipping his hips as you would expect for a defensive end, he looked relatively fluid for a player who typically has his hand in the dirt, while he did a good job catching the football in drills.

His numbers in the measurable drills weren’t good enough to bolster his draft stock, but they were adequate. He was hand timed at 4.83 seconds on both of his 40-yard dash attempts, while he recorded a 29 1/2” vertical, 8’6” broad jump and 19 repetitions in the bench press. He recorded impressive hand times of 4.19 seconds in the short shuttle and 7.26 seconds in the 3-cone drill.

“I think I did good,” Joseph said in an interview following his workout. “I did everything I could to leave everything on the field.”

Joseph said he could see himself playing either defensive end or linebacker at the next level. His sales pitch to an NFL team, he said, starts with being a hard worker.

“I’m a hard worker. I’m a competitor. I don’t let fatigue get to me when it’s that time for me to step on the field, and I can do more than one thing.”

Joseph said he has an individual workout scheduled with the Philadelphia Eagles for April 10, and added that he was “waiting on a couple more calls” from NFL teams.

Another LB to consider in the late rounds.

Here’s an interesting question. Does anyone else think the guy in this pic looks like Jerry Azzinaro?

He would have been at UConn to work out DL Shamar Stephen, who could be a DE target of the Eagles. In that pic, the coach/scout is working with Joseph.

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The OLB Situation

Posted: April 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 100 Comments »

I’ve covered this a few times, but it is worth discussing again. The Eagles need help at OLB. They are set at LOLB with Connor Barwin. He is just about perfect for what the Eagles want there. Barwin can play the run. He can cover. And he is an effective pass rusher. Ideally they would prefer a more explosive athlete who could bring more pressure off the edge, but Barwin is pretty darn good.

The ROLB situation is different. The Eagles need help. In a fantasy world they would be able to add someone that was a complete LB. The goal then would be to not have offenses know which guy was going to rush and which one was going to drop back in coverage. Coaches love flexibility.

While that is the ultimate goal, it isn’t a realistic goal. There just aren’t many guys that can fly off the edge and drop back and cover well. Dion Jordan is one such guy and that’s the reason the Eagles were talking to the Dolphins about a trade. That’s not likely to happen so the Eagles are now focused on finding LB help in the draft.

For now, the Eagles are looking for a pass rusher.

The ROLB is going to face LTs most of the time. Occasionally he’ll get blocked by a TE or RB, but mostly it will be the LT. That guy is the top pass blocker on the offense. The ROLB must be able to win enough battles against a LT to be disruptive to the offense. You cannot just stick any player at ROLB and expect to have success.

The player must be a natural pass rusher. He must be a good athlete. Being an effort guy or a power guy will only get you so far. The player needs some explosive traits. So when we talk about fits for ROLB, look for pass rushers with some athletic and explosive potential.

Adrian Hubbard of Alabama isn’t a pass rusher. Nor is he explosive. The Eagles might look at him as a backup at ROLB, but they won’t see him as The Answer to that spot. They’ll need to spend a pick in the first 3 rounds to find a likely answer. You never know when you’ll find the next Trent Cole, but those guys coming out of the 5th round is rare. You generally need to invest early picks to find pass rushers.

I put together thoughts on some of the top guys over at ScoutsNotebook.

I didn’t have time to cover everyone in great depth, but wanted to give you an idea of what I thought about the top prospects, good and bad.

I’m sure there will be more than a few disagreements with my thoughts. That’s okay. It is part of what makes draft discussions so much fun. We watch the same players, but see very different things.

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