Howie and Fletch Meet the Media

Posted: June 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 129 Comments »

After signing Fletcher Cox to a mega-deal, the Eagles had to have a press conference. That took place on Thursday. Lots of smiles. Lots of congratulations to go around. Fun for the whole family, basically.

Cox didn’t say anything all that noteworthy. He thanked everyone and talked about being excited for the upcoming season. About the most interesting thing to me was when he told Dave Spadaro that a big night for him is testing one of his race cars at the track. Is that really the hobby you want your star DL to have? What’s wrong with downloading pics of Megan Fox or sending hateful emails to Jimmy Bama (my biggest hobbies)?

Howie Roseman was much more interesting. He talked about the importance of keeping core players together and mentioned continuity as being a huge part of the success the Eagles had from 1999-2008. Howie mentioned there had been too much change in recent years, but rather than have that be a dig at Chip Kelly, took responsibility for some of the change.

You can really tell that Jeff Lurie had a long talk with Howie about what he wanted this year and into the future. Taking responsibility must have been one of the focal points because Howie has done that over and over. Kelly drove us all nuts with the way he used semantics to avoid responsibility or just shift the conversation to a pointless subject. Howie has not done that once this offseason. Just the opposite. He’s been busy praising those around him, even Kelly a time or two, and taking his share of the blame whenever there is a negative issue.

This really is a smart tactic, even when there is no need to take blame for something. You diffuse situations and also look like the better person when you take the blame. Andy Reid did this for years and it got him the respect and loyalty of those around him, both players and coaches.

Howie told a good story about the drafting of Cox. Go to the 13:00 mark of the PE.com video to hear the story of moving up for Cox, but also being tempted to move back when a compelling offer was made.

Someone asked Howie if the Eagles and Cox were ever far apart in negotiations and Howie admitted they were at one point. It almost sounded like the Eagles realized the market was out of whack and just realized that if they wanted to keep Cox around, they were going to have to pay him huge bucks and deal with the consequences.

A couple of people had questions about the Eagles wanting to keep guys off a team that went 7-9 and hasn’t made the playoffs in 2 straight years. Were the players really worth keeping around? Were they that good?

Yes and yes.

The Eagles won 6 and 3 games in the seasons prior to Reid taking over. He could have easily gotten rid of everyone, but wisely chose to build rather than to tear apart. He and Tom Modrak worked hard to identify good players already on the roster and they gave those players new deals or extensions.

Troy Vincent
Bobby Taylor
Brian Dawkins
Jermane Mayberry
Duce Staley
Brandon Whiting
Hollis Thomas
Chad Lewis

Not all of these players were given new deals right away. Some took a year or two. The point is that management was smart enough to understand poor performance by the team didn’t mean the roster was devoid of talent. The same is true now. The Eagles have some terrific players. I think keeping many of them is a no-brainer. Did anyone not approve of Zach Ertz or Vinny Curry getting an extension? The only real questionable deal is the re-signing of Sam Bradford. There is logic to the Eagles decision to pay him, but time will tell if that was the right decision.

Howie did mention to Spadaro the cap situation will be tight over the next couple of years. He also talked about the fact that there are some other young players on the roster the team would like to extend. You have to think he’s talking about Jordan Matthews and Bennie Logan. I’d love to keep both guys around, but we really need to see them in the new schemes to know their true value. I think Matthews will be about the same player, but Logan could play at a higher level now that he’ll be turned loose.

The Eagles made a great move to get Cox’s deal done. He’s happy and ready to go. The team can now relax a bit before getting ready for Training Camp.

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Cox and Roseman were asked about the Nelson Agholor situation. Cox stuck by the statement he made the other day. Roseman declined comment since there is an active investigation.

I haven’t said anything on it myself.

I honestly don’t know anything you don’t so there is no point in me speculating on such a serious issue.

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Practice vs Practice

Posted: June 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 179 Comments »

Chip Kelly ran football practice unlike any other football coach. He wanted reps. Coaching and teaching were to be done in the classroom. The field was all about reps, good, bad or indifferent.

This isn’t a dumb idea. Kelly likes to keep things basic and then wants his players to perfect their performance by getting rep after rep after rep. It makes sense that the more you do something, the better you should get at it. That may not be true of every endeavor in life, but understand that NFL players are the best in the world at what they do and they have excellent supervision.

While there is logic to Kelly’s thinking, that doesn’t make it the best way of doing things. With Kelly gone, some players are speaking up. Check out this piece by Robert Klemko of MMQB.

I think I enjoyed my day-trip to Philadelphia last week to watch the burgeoning QB competition between Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz and to get a feel for what practices will be like under Doug Pederson, whose coaching style appears to lean closer to Andy Reid than Chip Kelly. No more deafening techno at the NovaCare facility; just modern hip-hop, at a moderate volume. And rather than players going nonstop in five or six groups at once, there’s a lot more standing around and listening. It seems to be a welcome change for the vets. Here’s cornerback Nolan Carroll: “Things are a lot more slowed down this year compared to last year. They don’t want to give us a bunch of information and throw you on the field; that’s like a wasted day. I understand his mindset from last year. He wanted us to not think and just react, but guys need the mental reps first.” I wonder if Chip can hear that 2,500 miles away in San Francisco…

It is especially interesting that these comments come from Carroll. He was a player signed under Kelly. He and Kelly seemed to have a great relationship and Kelly constantly praised Carroll last offseason. Carroll started 11 games and played well for Kelly. These comments aren’t coming from someone with an agenda against Kelly. That gives them more weight.

I think one thing that hurts Kelly is that coaches and players are used to standard football practice. When introduced to his system, there is a bit of a shock factor. Players and coaches have spent all their lives doing something a certain way and now must adapt to an unorthodox system. There is no doubt that not all of them buy in.

You also wonder if coaches who aren’t used to that style can be effective teachers when working like that. It is much easier to do that at the collegiate level, where you don’t have the same expectation levels and other factors. Teaching a college player to beat the man across from him is different than doing that in the NFL. You can teach a DE to beat the Cal LT easier than you can teach a DE to beat Tyron Smith. Covering Kenny Lawler is easier than covering Odell Beckham. And so on. Details mean more in the NFL. Trying to teach details might be tougher in a split field-classroom system than in the standard style of practice.

Or it might not.

It is possible Kelly’s methods felt less effective to some people because there were so unorthodox when in reality, the results were about the same. Kelly went 10-6, 10-6 and 7-9 as coach. It isn’t as if his tenure was some huge failure. It just didn’t turn out as hoped.

I don’t know if there will be any way to truly know which style of practice is better. It will be interesting to see how the players perform this season. That won’t necessarily give us an answer, but it could offer a hint.

*****

I do have a theory that just occurred to me. I need to do a bit of research before sharing it.

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Need a good laugh? Here you go.

Enjoy.

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Fletch Lives

Posted: June 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 115 Comments »

Anybody need to borrow a couple of bucks?

If so, you might want to hit up my pal Fletcher Cox. He’s going to have some fat pockets for the next few years (or decades). The long-awaited deal between him and the Eagles finally went down.

This caps off an outstanding offseason. All the key players who needed them got new deals. The Eagles didn’t lose any players that the team wanted kept around. I’m not saying the team made perfect moves and is headed for the Super Bowl, but it sure feels like they did what needed to be done, especially considering the resources they had to work with and which players were available.

The two biggest moves were drafting Carson Wentz and extending Cox’s deal. Wentz is all about the future. We’ll have to wait and see how that move pans out. Cox is all about the present. He is the team’s best player, apologies to my good friend Donnie Jones, and is the kind of talent you build a defense around. Cox can be a special player in Jim Schwartz’s attacking 4-3 scheme.

Take a look at PE.com’s Top 5 plays of his from 2015 and you can see some incredible ability. I can’t wait to see what Cox does now that he can attack off the ball on every play. The sky is the limit.

The Eagles handled this negotiation well. They consistently praised Cox, knowing that every positive comment would cost them another $37 (unofficial estimate). They didn’t play games with him or his agent. Howie Roseman has done a great job when it comes to getting mega-deals done with Eagles stars. He works well with agents, which helps the team and the players.

Joe Banner generally did a good job at negotiating deals, but he sometimes negotiated too well and left players and agents confused. Things would almost have an adversarial feel. The Eagles lost Jeremiah Trotter in 2002. Corey Simon left in 2005. Donte Stallworth in 2007. Brian Dawkins in 2009. Those were tense, tight negotiations that didn’t end well for the Eagles. That’s all changed since Roseman took over negotiations.

Say what you want about the Eagles, but they have been very aggressive this offseason. One of the keys is that the money was well spent. They paid stars “star money”. No Byron Maxwell’s got star money. The Eagles also put big money into young players and guys in the prime of their career. Cox should be a top flight player for the next 4 or 5 years, hopefully more.

It also feels good to be pumping that money into homegrown talent. That means you drafted well and the players have developed as hoped, or better. Remember when the Eagles struggled to find defensive talent in the draft? That seems like a long time ago when  you think about Cox, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Eric Rowe.

The short term outlook for the Eagles still isn’t ideal, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Like these…

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The DT Mystery

Posted: June 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 78 Comments »

Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan could be the best DT duo in the NFL this year. Cox has become a dominant player and Logan could really thrive in the new system, now that he’s asked to make plays rather than just eating up blockers. Watch him when he was able to attack upfield.

Or check out this play. The C tried to reach block him, but Logan was so quick off the ball that he blew up the play. He’s got the ability to be very disruptive now that he can fly off the ball.

It will be a lot of fun watching Cox and Logan make plays.

Who will back them up?     Read the rest of this entry »


Minicamp Closes

Posted: June 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 205 Comments »

No more football until late July. Eagles coaches and players will have about 6 weeks of down time between now and the start of Training Camp. Thursday was a light day of practice, but there is always something to talk about.

First up is Brandon Lee Gowton of BGN.

• The Eagles did a lot of red zone work today. Here’s how Kansas City ranked in red zone efficiency while Pederson was the Chiefs‘ offensive coordinator.

2013 – 5th
2014 – 9th
2015 – 12th

This could be a key for the Eagles. They were 15th and 23rd in red zone percentage over the last couple of seasons. That is part of the reason the team was disappointing in both seasons. You must score TDs to win close games. The Eagles just didn’t do that enough.

• Speaking of splitting non-receivers out wide, tight end Trey Burton has gotten a lot of looks on the outside. He’s spent more time playing like a receiver than he has playing as a fullback. The Chiefs ran a number of three tight end sets in Kansas City so I wonder how involved Burton will be on offense.

Chip Kelly did some shuffling between 3 WR/1 TE and 2 WR/2 TE, but he wasn’t very creative with formations or personnel. Trey Burton felt like a player that should have gotten more time, especially considering how the WRs struggled last year. I remember Burton making a play against the Lions. Jimmy Bama had this to say after the play.

And that’s exactly what happened. Why not get the ball to that guy again? Doug Pederson will be more creative than Chip Kelly. I would guess he will do a better job of mixing and matching his personnel. Only time will tell if the results are better.

*****

Here is an interesting note from Jeff McLane.

— Thursday’s practice was much shorter and less strenuous than the first two. There weren’t any team drills – just individual, installation and 7-on-7s. A number of players, including Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce, have noted that they feel fresher this spring than in the previous three springs under Chip Kelly. The tempo of Kelly’s practices made sure that the players were conditioned by the end of the spring, but they also might have been unnecessarily exhausting. There seemed to be more standing around during Doug Pederson’s practices, though. Whether that’s good or bad is unknown, but Kelly made sure he maximized his time. Toward the end of Wednesday’s indoor session, the Eagles ran 7-on-7 drills. Typically, both lines will work individually during 7-on-7s, but during this set, both groups just stood and watched. The cramped environs might have had something to do with the standing around, but there was still plenty of space for them to get their side work in.

I am curious to see what players think of practice under Pederson vs practice under Kelly. We need to see some Training Camp practices before we can really compare the two in-depth.

It is one thing to like or dislike a style of practice, but the more important question is which style is more effective? Which one is more conducive to good teaching and learning? Kelly had great success with his methods in college. His NFL results were more mixed. Pederson seemed to get solid results this spring, but a better test will be how the players look in Training Camp. Do the new methods bring out the best in them? How do they work with hitting and tackling? Do more physical practices bring out the best in the players?

*****

Jimmy Bama has been impressed by Chase Daniel.

• Chase Daniel continues to impress. There haven’t been many negatives to report on him, and we’ve already pointed out a number of the positives. Daniel doesn’t have much in the way of game tape to learn from, but if I were to compare Daniel in practice vs Mark Sanchez in practice, I would give a heavy edge to Daniel.

Today, Daniel hit Jordan Matthews for a TD a strong throw to the back of the end zone. It’s becoming clearer why the Eagles paid him the way they did. He has looked legitimately good.

I was thrilled when Sanchez was dealt to Denver. I had hopes that he would improve last year, but that didn’t happen. We just saw more of the same. Daniel doesn’t have the same amount of experience, but I’m fine with that. Daniel has played behind good QBs and for good coaches. He is smart. Daniel might have physical limitations, but he should be fine as a backup QB.

• I still don’t love what I’m seeing from Nelson Agholor. Today he caught a pass near the three-yard line and was able to stretch the ball across the goal line in quick motion. However, Jalen Mills was able to pop the ball out. I would say it was probably a completion and a TD, but you’d rather just see Agholor hold onto the football and leave no doubt.

Agholor has been up and down this spring. It feels like he might be pressing right now. The time off might be just what he needs. Sometimes a break can clear your head and get you back into a comfort zone. Agholor should focus on the next rep. Run a good route. Catch the ball when it comes your way. Forget about big plays and do the little things right. Then the big plays will come. A hitter in baseball doesn’t break out of a slump by trying to hit home runs. Work on your swing. Make good contact. The hits will come. The same principle applies to Agholor. Do the little things well. Everything else will follow.

*****

Here is a really interesting note from Tim McManus.

Mills is another corner who could play in nickel situations, with Pederson mentioning his name first when asked which rookie has impressed him outside of Carson Wentz. Jordan Matthews spoke highly of Mills, too, after minicamp wrapped up today.

“I like Jalen a lot,” Matthews said. “He’ll come up there and get up in my face whenever we’re working plays. If he wants to be physical, he’s going to be physical. He’s not going to back down. Even after some practices, he’ll pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, let’s get some extra releases.’ So you know that willingness to work is also there, too. I like him a lot. I think he’s definitely going to play a lot for us this year.”

I love hearing Matthews talk that way about Mills. Matthews was a 2nd round pick, but he’s also worked his tail off since coming to the NFL. He does everything he can to be a better player. Mills was a late pick, but he has legit talent. It is great to hear that Mills is working with Matthews. That doesn’t guarantee success for him, but it shows he is being smart about who to hang out with and who to work out with. Go spend time with the overachiever. Learn from that guy. He can teach you what to do on and off the field to be a better player.

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