Reflecting on the Draft

Posted: May 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 221 Comments »

What grade would I give the Eagles draft?

I wouldn’t. I don’t like draft grades. I prefer to study what a team did and try to understand what they were trying to accomplish. Grades are fun for the casual fan, but drafting isn’t just about selecting 7 players. Teams are shaping the future of their franchise. They are looking for the right people as well as players. They are studying medical histories. They are studying body types. There is a lot that goes into paring down several thousand prospects to a draft board of 150 (sometimes less) names.

I hate taking a complex process like the draft and saying “I didn’t like the TE they took in the 3rd round so I’m giving them a B-“.

At the same time, it is completely fair to judge a draft class in a reasonable way. Whether fan or writer or analyst, we all have an opinion and will share it with anyone who will listen. With that in mind, I will talk about the Eagles draft.

I liked the Eagles draft. I didn’t love it.

The big hang-up for me is taking RB Donnel Pumphrey and not getting a workhorse type of RB. Beyond that, I really like what the Eagles did.

As I’ve written about, this draft was all about the passing game. On offense, that meant getting weapons for Carson Wentz. On defense, that meant finding pass rushers and cover guys. The Eagles did a good job on both fronts.

Think about the offense. The Eagles had arguably the worst WR corps in the league last year. They added a big, fast WR in Mack Hollins who can get deep and deliver big plays. That was his specialty in college. They also added a WR with explosive speed. Shelton Gibson can fly by CBs. He also can catch short passes and turn them into big plays. I love the double-dip. Don’t get one WR and consider the problem solved. Go get multiple players.

When you have a weak spot like the Eagles did at WR in 2016, you don’t fix it with one guy. You want to spend multiple resources to upgrade the unit. Jeffery, Smith, Hollins and Gibson do that. WR is much better now than it was.

And Donnel Pumphrey does help the passing game. He can line up in the slot and get open on short, quick routes. If you have field stretchers on the outside, you need good underneath receivers to work with them. Darren Sproles is in his final year so Pumphrey can help that situation now and into the future. He also has big play ability as a runner.

The Eagles offense needed more big plays. Collins, Gibson and Pumphrey should help with that.

The Eagles have to play better pass defense in 2017. The organization wisely didn’t look at this just as a CB problem. As all defensive coaches tell you, pass rush and pass coverage work hand in hand. Gang Green got lit up a few times when the secondary wasn’t playing well. The Eagles got better up front and on the back end.

They started by adding an edge rusher in Derek Barnett. He has the skill set to fit in this scheme and should push for significant playing time as a rookie. Barnett is not a project in any sense of the word. He could push for a starting role. The final pick was DT Elijah Qualls. At 6-1, 313 he sounds like a run stuffer, but you watch him play and see his agility and ability to rush the passer. The Eagles got better off the edge and up the middle.

Just like the double-dip at WR, the Eagles added a pair of CBs. Sidney Jones was just too good to pass up at 43. He has Top 10 potential so using a mid-2nd round pick on him is smart. This isn’t a lottery ticket pick as the Eagles see it. They are confident he will fully recover. When the Eagles used a comp pick on Jack Ikeguwonu and his totally reconstructed knee several years back, that was a lottery ticket pick. Big talent, but major risk. And he never recovered. There is a huge difference in an Achilles injury and a major knee injury.

Rasul Douglas is a player I thought Jim Schwartz would love back when I was watching him at Senior Bowl practices. Douglas is a tall, long corner with great ball skills. He is very confident and very aggressive. I had him rated lower than the 3rd round, but that’s because I’m going off generic draft info and not specific Eagles info. Douglas ran 4.59 at the Combine. Ran 4.60 at his Pro Day. That’s who he is. That makes him a 4th or 5th round pick to many teams. The Eagles were comfortable with the pedestrian speed because of the other things that he did so well.

I wrote somewhere after the draft that if things work out, Jones and Douglas could be like a Troy Vincent-Bobby Taylor pairing. Jones is the athletic corner who can smother receivers like Vincent. Douglas is the big corner who might need some Safety help at times, but who can use his size to take on bigger receivers and really go after them like Taylor.

Not only did the Eagles add a good pair of  CBs, but they work well together based on their skills and how they will fit in the scheme.

I’m still working on a long post about Pumphrey. I will tell you this, he’s grown on me a lot. He is small, but doesn’t play small. Lorenzo Booker played small. Pumphrey is a tough, aggressive runner. He’s not afraid of anyone or anything. That attitude means a lot when you’re 5-9, 180. Think about this for a second…my least favorite Eagles draft pick just set the record for most rushing yards in a career. He followed that up by playing well at the Senior Bowl and then having a good Combine. If that’s the guy you’re questioning, I would say the team did a pretty good job.

I just wrote about Nate Gerry yesterday. The Eagles think he can become a solid WLB. Does that mean he’ll be a starter in 4 years? Don’t count on that, but let’s see what happens. The Eagles spent a late pick on a small LB back in 1998. His name was Ike Reese. He became a backup LB and leader of the STs. Turned out to be a great pick even though he only started a few games. If Gerry could become another Ike Reese type player, that would be a terrific pick. Not every guy has to become a starter to be good value. If Gerry becomes more than that, that’s even better.

Time will tell if this draft class is an A or B or whatever.

For now, I feel pretty good about this group of players and the job that Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl and the scouts did.

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Converts

Posted: May 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

Pete Rose helped the Phillies win the World Series back in 1980. He did that playing first base. Rose played third base for the Reds in 1978, but Mike Schmidt manned the hot corner in Philly so Rose had to change positions when he came to town. Over to first he went. This wasn’t a big deal for Rose, who had already spent full seasons at second base and all 3 outfield spots in his career. Rose is obviously an extreme example, but changing positions is part of baseball.

Football is different. Players find a home and tend to stay there. I can’t see Donnie Jones and Darren Sproles switching spots this year, although it would be fun to see Jones get to show off his dynamic athletic ability. You know he’d leave a trail of DBs and LBs behind him, all begging for mercy. We’ll have to settle for seeing him boom punts this fall.

The Eagles are going to move Nate Gerry from SS to OLB. This will be a challenge for Gerry and the team, but it can work.

The first thing you have to look for is skill set. Thomas Davis played S at Georgia, but moved to LB in the NFL. I had no doubt that he would succeed. Davis might be the most physical college player I’ve ever seen. Playing in traffic and having to deal with blockers wasn’t going to be an issue for him. If anything, those poor guys were the ones who were going to have the problem. Davis has thrived at LB in the NFL.

Gerry isn’t anywhere close to Davis in terms of talent or physicality, but he is a tough, physical player who is comfortable near the LOS. He is a good hitter and tackler.

https://twitter.com/WeAreDBNation1/status/837352439552561152

It is one thing for a player to hit WRs over the middle. It is another to come downhill and take on a RB head on. Gerry doesn’t just run to him. He wraps up and tackles the runner. That’s good, physical football.

Here is another example of his physicality.

Taking on a FB isn’t the same thing as battling OL, but it shows that he will do the dirty work. This isn’t a guy who expects to sit in space and have clean, easy targets in front of him. He will play in traffic and fight to get to the ball. LBs have to do that all the time.

Some want LBs who can shed blocks. Some want LBs who can run. Some want LBs who can hit. Some want LBs that can cover. Most important to me is the ability to tackle. More than anything, my LBs must be able to wrap up and put players on the ground. Gerry does that well. He gets into good position and then uses his hands/arms to secure the runner/receiver. There are times when he’ll go for the big hit and that’s fine. Most of the time, you want to tackle. It isn’t as flashy, but that’s how you get offenses off the field. Tackle.

Gerry has a LB frame. He was 6-2, 218 at the Combine. He can easily add 10 pounds and have enough bulk to play LB. With the emphasis on the passing game these days, there aren’t a lot of 250-pounds LBs out there. Someone that is 6-2 and in the 225 to 230-pound range is big enough. Sometimes numbers can be deceiving. There are guys who are 225, but don’t look it. Gerry does. Check out the picture at the top. That doesn’t look like your typical DB. He looks like a LB.

This also isn’t completely new to Gerry. He played some LB in high school and Bo Pelini recruited him to Nebraska to play LB for the Huskers. He did play that as a freshman and even got some starting experience. Gerry became a fixture at S for his final 3 years, but his background can’t hurt.

What will Gerry have to work on?

He loved to attack downhill in college. As a LB he won’t be able to do that as much. He can shoot gaps on some plays, but will also have to move more laterally. Gerry will have to learn to use his hands better when fighting off blockers. He did some of that at Nebraska, but not like this. He will have to stack and shed blockers on a regular basis. That means playing with leverage, power and using your hands really well. There is a technique to taking on and defeating blockers. This will challenge Gerry quite a bit. Some guys who play LB for 4 years in college struggle to deal with blockers.

Diagnosing plays will be different. At S, Gerry was back and had time to read what was going on in front of him. At LB, you are right by the action. You have less time to key and diagnose plays. It has to become second nature. Gerry is a smart player and shows good instincts, but he still has plenty of learning to do.

I think Gerry has the size, skills and background to make the transition to LB. It won’t be easy, but the potential is there. One advantage he does have is that his experience as a DB will help him in coverage situations. Some young LBs struggle with that area when they come to the NFL. Gerry knows how to cover RBs and TEs.

*****

Fran Duffy and his trusty sidekick Greg Cosell took the time to break down Gerry and the LB role in the Eagles defense. Good stuff, as always.

*****

Gerry isn’t the only Eagle on the move.

  • Greg Ward is going from QB to WR.
  • Byron Marshall is going from RB to WR.
  • Taylor Hart is going from DT to WR RT.
  • Billy Brown is going from WR to TE.

Marshall may get plenty of time at RB as well. The talk this weekend is that he’s being “cross-trained”. That wasn’t the case a few weeks back. With the Eagles not having ideal depth at RB, it makes sense to get him some reps there.

Hart is the most interesting guy on this list, but he has an uphill battle because of time. He’s been in the league a few years already. I’m curious to see him this summer.

Ward has the skill set to be a good slot receiver. He played some receiver early in college so this isn’t new to him.

Fran is higher on Brown than I am.

*****

Players have moved in the past. Some worked, some didn’t.

Ray Farmer was a SS at Duke in 1995 and was the SLB for the Eagles in 1996. He won NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his performance in a shutout of the Giants that fall. A knee injury killed his career.

Reno Mahe was a highly productive WR at BYU. Andy Reid had him bulk up and move to RB. I always thought they should have had him stay lighter and play slot receiver.

Matt Ware was a stud CB at UCLA, but a bit stiff. He tried to play CB, slot and S in the NFL, but wasn’t a great fit anywhere. He did manage to play 7 years in the league so he obviously found some niche.

Chris Gocong was a great DE in college. The Eagles moved him to SAM and he was okay, but never developed into the player they hoped. He was an effective starter for a few years. He was no Greg Richmond, obviously (joke for the old timers from the EMB).

A couple of players came to the Eagles after having moved. Brad Smith was a great QB for Missouri. He moved to WR and STer in the NFL and proved to be a good role player.

One of the greatest transitions in NFL history is Jason Peters going from blocking TE at Arkansas to Pro Bowl LT in the NFL. The rarest of the rare. If he could give just a bit of his magic to Dillon Gordon, that would be great.

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Roster Tweaks

Posted: May 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 175 Comments »

The Eagles will be having a Rookie Camp this weekend. They finally got around to making the UDFA announcements official.

There are some players missing from the first reports we had.

LB Marcus Oliver
TE Billy Brown

I wasn’t a huge fan of either guy. I didn’t think Oliver had NFL athleticism and Brown had to make the transition from D2 WR to NFL TE. That’s a tall order.

The Eagles also let go of WR Rasheed Bailey, who was a bit of a fan favorite from the past. He lacked ideal size or speed.

As I count it, the roster now stands at 89 players.

*****

There are a number of tryout players coming for the weekend. The one getting the most notoriety is Air Force Safety Weston Steelhammer. Great name. He’s also a good player. He finished his career with 18 INTs, the most of any current college player. We know the Eagles love production so giving him a shot makes a ton of sense.

The Eagles posted the full roster for this weekend. There will be a mixture of draft picks, UDFAs, tryout players and “young veterans”. Guys like LB Don Cherry,  WR David Watford, CB Mitchell White and DT Justin Hamilton will be there. When you are a fringe roster player, you take every rep you can get.

The RBs will be Donnel Pumphrey, Corey Clement and Joe Yearby, a tryout player who was a former starter at Miami. The coaches will get a chance to see how quickly Pumphrey and Clement learn.

*****

Interesting idea. The Ravens need help at WR. The Eagles might be willing to deal Matthews. Why? There are questions about how he fits in the long term plans. His production will warrant good contract. Eagles seem to want different types of WRs. Will they spend big for him or try to use that money on Alshon Jeffery?

One problems. The Ravens are showing some interest in free agent Victor Cruz.

Matthews is a good player. But just how much is he worth in terms of his contract? That’s the tricky part.

*****

The Eagles have some depth at certain positions. They have some players they can deal, if they want to. Howie Roseman won’t give anyone away. He’ll try to get good value or he’ll keep the players for the upcoming season and then worry about the future when it gets here.

Trades are like a game of chicken. You have to go as far as you can to “win”. You have to be willing to lose if you want a good payoff. If you play it safe, you won’t be consistently getting a good return for your players. The other team has to be willing to meet your price or at least to up their offer and the way to get them to do that is by making them believe you’ll walk away from the trade table and keep your player. Lots of bluffing and posturing, but it can be beneficial if it works right.

Or you could get stuck with a player you aren’t really committed to.

*****

QB Jerod Evans has grown on me a little bit. I don’t think he has any chance to win a roster spot this year, but you can see where there is something to work with. He is a good downfield passer. There are times when he is good underneath, getting the ball out quickly and accurately. There are other times when he is painfully slow with his release and you know why he went undrafted.

This was a good game.

Don’t watch Notre Dame.

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In and Out

Posted: May 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 198 Comments »

Sometimes analyzing the offseason is easier than we make it.

IN

WR Alshon Jeffery
WR Torrey Smith
WR Mack Hollins
WR Shelton Gibson
RB Donnel Pumphrey
QB Nick Foles
QB Matt McGloin
OL Chance Warmack
DE Derek Barnett
DE Chris Long
DT Tim Jernigan
LB Steven Daniels
CB Patrick Robinson
CB Sidney Jones
CB Rasul Douglas

OUT

QB Chase Daniel
RB Kenjon Barner
DE Connor Barwin
DT Bennie Logan
ST Bryan Braman
LB Stephen Tulloch
CB Leodis McKelvin
CB Nolan Carroll

RB Ryan Mathews is going to be cut when he’s healthy enough to pass a physical.

ANALYSIS

The top group is better than the bottom group.

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Moves and Maybe Moves

Posted: May 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 162 Comments »

Some interesting nuggets out there today.

Very interesting. I wasn’t sure what to make of this kid before the draft. He has serious talent. His highlight moments are good. But he’s been inconsistent and had a slew of injuries, including 3 concussions. He only played 4 games this year. After a concussion vs TCU, he decided to sit out the rest of the season. Concussions aren’t anything to be taken lightly so you can understand his thinking.

Walker has solid size at 6-2, 310. He had some good numbers at the Combine (4.96 in the 40 and 25 reps), but didn’t do as well in the agility tests as I would have anticipated. He certainly looks like an agile big man when you watch the tape.

Walker is a natural fit in the Eagles scheme. Looks like OU had him playing DE and DT and doing a variety of things (attacking and reading plays). Jim Schwartz will turn him loose and let him attack up the field. Walker had 6 sacks as a Soph. and you know Schwartz loves DL who can get to the QB. From a fit perspective, this can work.

The coaches have to get Walker to play all out, all the time. They also have to hope he stays healthy. The talent is there, but DL with his ability don’t go undrafted unless there are serious questions.

*****

Did you hear this?

So the Saints might need help at C? Hmmmm…

Their backup C is Jack Allen, a UDFA from last year. I have no idea how he played last summer or what the Saints think of him. For a team that is desperate to get back to winning (3 straight 7-9 seasons), the Saints might feel like they have to make a move.

https://twitter.com/PatrickMCausey/status/861650416630738945

The Eagles could use a RB. The Saints could use OL help. Wonder if they might work something out.

The Saints signed Adrian Peterson in free agency and drafted Alvin Kamara so they have flexibility with their backfield. Ingram has some size and is coming off his best NFL season so you could easily see where the Eagles would be interested.

I would love an Eagles RB group of Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey. Ingram and Sproles would be a heck of a 1-2 punch. Smallwood showed good potential last year, but we don’t know just how good he can be. Pumphrey would have his rookie season to adjust to the league and the coaches could mix him in slowly. The coaches could be very situational with a solid group of runners.

This move would seem to make sense for both sides.

We’ll see what happens.

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