Lucky Chemistry

Posted: February 12th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Lucky Chemistry

The 2017 Eagles won the Super Bowl. The 2017 Eagles had great chemistry. That team did not win the Super Bowl because of great chemistry. It helped, of course, but that team was very talented and most important of all, they played at a high level.

Dave Spadaro wrote a piece on intangibles for 2020 and talked about chemistry. I completely agree with Dave that Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson want better team chemistry in the upcoming season. That said, I think chemistry is a really complex subject.

The 2017 Eagles had a second-year QB in Carson Wentz. They had veteran leaders in Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Brent Celek, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins. That’s a pretty strong core to build around. Still, only Jenkins had any idea what it was like to be a champion. The other players had no idea what postseason success was like.

The Eagles added LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Long, Tim Jernigan, Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby. Only Jeffery signed a big deal. The other players came at minimal cost in terms of price or compensation. Teams were not going crazy for them as players.

One thing that brought the returning Eagles and the new guys together was a hunger. They all either wanted something or had something to prove. They embarked on a mission and all of the players were able to get on the same page. They competed starting in spring workouts and competition didn’t stop until Tom Brady’s desperation heave hit the ground in the end zone in Minneapolis. That group truly brought out the best in each other.

How do you know who to add to a team?

How do you build chemistry?

Let’s be honest here. You can try to find the right guys, but there is also some luck. You don’t know that Chris Long and Beau Allen will turn out to be best friends. You don’t know that DE Steven Means will practice relentlessly hard and bring out the best in everyone around him. You don’t know that Jeffery and Smith will allow Nelson Agholor to settle into a role and have the best year of his career.

Jalen Mills was a brash rookie in 2016. The next year he was a solid starter and his presence on the field brought a lot of energy and emotion to the defense. You certainly can’t plan for that.

The Eagles need to be careful in their quest for chemistry. This isn’t about finding 53 buddies or 53 nice guys. You need players that bring out the best in each other. You need some loud, confident, brash players (they would be considered jerks if they had a star on the side of their helmet). You need serious leaders. You need guys that can follow. Too many alphas can be a very bad thing. You need the right mixture of players and personalities.

I do think focusing on youth will help. Veterans bring experience, but they can also bring baggage. Young guys come in desperate to play and prove themselves. There is something to be said for that.

Some people think the note on chemistry could be bad news for Alshon Jeffery, for his words/actions in regard to Carson Wentz.

Maybe.

But I also think too many people are quick to say “just get rid of him”. If the Eagles genuinely feel that Jeffery hurts the locker room and is bad for chemistry, then yes, get rid of him for sure. At the same time, remember that Jeffery was part of the 2017 team that won it all. I know Nick Foles was the QB in the postseason, but Wentz started 13 games and threw 8 TD passes to Jeffery. Jeffery was part of the good chemistry in 2017. Things have changed since then, but don’t ignore that fact.

Howie and Doug have some tough decisions about who to let go and how to fix the Eagles. They do need to focus on tangible qualities like speed for sure, but Spadaro is right that intangibles are also going to be important.

This really is going to be a fascinating offseason.

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Better Than Nothing

Posted: February 10th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

I watched the Amazon series All or Nothing over the weekend. This year they focused on the Eagles and I was hoping this would be really interesting content. The series certainly had some excellent moments, but overall it was disappointing. We just didn’t see behind the curtain enough, so to speak.

My biggest frustration with the series was way too much WIP. You can’t do a show on the Eagles without mixing in some WIP and I certainly get that. But it was featured in every episode, multiple times. That was more than I wanted.

I could have lived with that if we got more behind the scenes material, but that was too superficial. I loved All or Nothing when they covered the Cowboys a few years ago. You could really get a feel for the players and the assistant coaches. You could see how difficult it was to deal with Dez Bryant on a daily basis. He was delusional and selfish. You could see what a terrific leader Sean Lee was. He was like a player-coach, sometimes running meetings by himself. You got to see inside the meeting rooms on a regular basis. We didn’t get that kind of stuff this year.

I’m sure the Eagles and NFL shared control of the content. The Eagles are more protective than Dallas and I’m sure they limited the access of the show. I certainly understand that, but as a viewer it would have been great to get more of a peak at what goes on behind the scenes.

I would loved to have seen more football stuff, like game reviews or gameplan discussions. Others wanted more open discussion of the controversies the Eagles faced in 2019. The show did cover the losing streaks and the Orlando Scandrick situation. But there wasn’t any talk of the hit piece on Carson Wentz. There wasn’t any discussion of Alshon Jeffery allegedly leaking critical comments to Josina Anderson. There was no discussion on DeSean’s decision to delay surgery, nor the controversy over Ertz playing with a lacerated kidney.

There were some really interesting parts to the show.

Brandon Graham

Graham might be the most likable Eagle. He’s incredibly positive and always seems to be happy. He was the star of the show, always with a great smile or funny line. This clip is NSFW and had me cracking up. Great trash talk.

The Wives

We did get to see the women behind some of the Eagles and they came across really well. Julie Ertz is the most prominent and was great in the episode that featured her. Graham’s wife was entertaining, but it was interesting to see her watching BG deal with an injury. If you followed the team all year, you knew it wasn’t all that serious so that took away some of the drama. Still, it did give you a glimpse into how a spouse deals with a tough situation.

We didn’t get to see Doug Pederson’s wife, but she had one of the best moments via a story from Doug. After the Eagles lost to MIN and DAL in blowouts, Pederson was in a foul mood at his house. They had family in town and she wasn’t happy with his demeanor. She told Doug to “pull his head out of his ass and go lead the team”. Doug told that story to the players in a meeting. I think things like that are what help him and the players bond. Not every coach is sharing a story like that. And good for her for telling Doug what he needed to hear.

The Odd Couple

Dallas Goedert and Avonte Maddox trained for the draft together in 2018. Both then got picked by the Eagles. They decided to be roommates and watching them is like the Eagles version of The Odd Couple. I enjoyed seeing the two of them interacting.

Nelson Agholor

The show did not do Nelson Agholor any favors. It showed him arguing with DeSean about their speed/playmaking ability. Somehow Nelson thought they were similar players. Yikes. Just yikes. We got to see the great fan video.

And then there was video of Agholor helping volunteers load/unload turkeys near Thanksgiving. Sounds great, but he kept telling them to make sure to tuck them away. Very odd joke. It didn’t come across to me as self-deprecating so much as completely unaware. That was weird.

Malcolm Jenkins

I have incredible respect for Jenkins as a player and as a person. The series didn’t change that at all. You can really see the presence he has on the field and in the locker room. There was one brief moment when he was getting on Sidney Jones. You could tell Jenkins is frustrated by a guy with that natural talent being so timid. Jalen Mills isn’t physically gifted, but he has truckloads of confidence and the players around him see that, like that and respect that.

Carson Wentz

We see and hear a ton about Wentz already so I can’t say the series did much for me when showing him. The highlight is when a kid at a school event grilled Wentz about the Dallas loss and his fumbling issue. Kids don’t hold back. I also did laugh when Wentz was giving a hard time to Goedert and Maddox about their Christmas tree.

It was cool to see Wentz really take over the team late in the season. He was missing blockers and weapons, but somehow led the team to a 4-0 record down the stretch and a division title.

Brandon Brooks

It was great to see Brooks talk about his condition and to be so up front about the situation. I have incredible respect for him. He also seems like a really good guy.

Boston Scott

Man, you can really see how much the other players love this little dude. It is always fun to root for the underdog, but this isn’t some Rudy story where a dude had one moment. Scott carried the team on his back in the season finale. The other players loved it.

Seeing Scott in action reinforced my belief that he absolutely needs to be part of the offensive plan in 2020.

Josh McCown

If Graham was the star of the show, McCown was number two. You could see how much fun he had throughout the year. You could see how he bonded with the other players. It felt like he had been an Eagle for a while, not just a few months.

You got to see him fly to Charlotte to coach a high school game and spend a brief moment with his kids. Then it was right back on a plane to Philly to resume his backup QB duties.

It was great to see McCown get to play in the playoff game. I hated the result obviously, but just being part of that game was something special to him. McCown was devastated at the end. He felt that he let his teammates down. Ertz had to console him on the field.

McCown then went in the tunnel, but paused before rounding a corner to where people were. He dropped to his knees and broke down again. That moment really got to me. That’s why I love sports. You see guys do everything they can to win and when it doesn’t happen, it is soul-crushing. That game wasn’t about money or fame or glory. McCown got a chance to compete in the postseason. He got a chance to lead a team in a playoff game.

Sports can deliver some amazing feel-good moments, but there are plenty of devastating moments as well. McCown was on the wrong side of the ledger. But I’ll be grateful that I got to watch him play. That was special. That will stick with me.

The series also showed us that McCown is very much ready to be a coach. He might not be ready for offensive coordinator, but he should be someone’s QBs coach when he’s ready. He’s smart and is great with players. All I could think is that he’s going to be the next Doug Pederson. Long time backup QB who becomes an assistant coach and then takes over an NFL team.

MISC

I completely forgot the Eagles were up 10-0 on the Patriots when Lane Johnson got knocked out of the game.

I forgot about the missed FG in the Dolphins loss. Those three points would have helped.

I forgot just how bad the loss to Dallas was…37-10. Ugh.

Watching all the Miles Sanders clips got me excited for 2020. When does the season start?

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Staff Changes

Posted: February 8th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles announced their coaching staff changes on Thursday. On Friday, they announced changes to the training staff and the front office.

We’ll start on the health side of things since that has been such a huge issue the past two seasons. The new hires are:

• Tom Hunkele – Director of Sports Medicine

• Ted Rath – Director of Sports Performance

I’m not going to pretend like I can judge these hires with any kind of expertise. Both guys do have good resumes.

Hunkele joins the Eagles as the team’s director of sports medicine after spending the last 14 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, where he served as the coordinator of rehabilitation/assistant athletic trainer. In his role with the Vikings, Hunkele assisted in the evaluation and care of all injuries sustained and helped to implement proactive treatment and rehabilitation programs.

And

In 2019, Hunkele was recognized as the Tim Davey Assistant Athletic Trainer of the Year for the NFC. He was also part of a Vikings staff that was honored by their NFL peers as the 2017 Athletic Training Staff of the Year.

Huenkle has experience. It sure sounds like he’s good at what he does. I like the fact he was with the Vikings for a long time. Huenkle worked for multiple GMs and multiple coaches. That tells you he did a good job for them. A lot of time regime changes mean overall staff changes. Huenkle kept right on grinding and kept the organization happy.

It is also good that Huenkle has a history with the Eagles. He worked for NovaCare and did some work for the team prior to going to Minnesota.

As for Rath:

Prior to his time in Los Angeles (Rams), Rath spent one season as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Dolphins (2016) and seven seasons in the same role with the Detroit Lions (2009-15).

And

In 2017, Rath was named the Strength Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, an award voted on by strength and conditioning coaches around the NFL. That season, according to Football Outsiders, the Rams finished as the healthiest team in the NFL based on adjusted games lost due to injury.

Another guy with NFL experience and a strong track record.

Rath spent time in Detroit with Jim Schwartz and then in Miami with Matt Burke so he’s got connections to the Eagles coaching staff.

There is one issue with Rath.

He was acquitted and that is important. I don’t think the Eagles would have made this hire without really doing their homework.

These two men don’t insure the team will now magically stay healthy. The Rams had their share of injuries to deal with in 2019. But the men have a track record of success in the NFL. They bring new ideas to an organization that has struggled with injuries in recent years.

These sure seem to be good moves.

*****

Onto the personnel side of things.

• Jeremiah Washburn – Director of Player Personnel/Senior Defensive Assistant

• Connor Barwin – Special Assistant to the General Manager

• Brent Celek – Personnel Consultant

• Darren Sproles – Personnel Consultant

There were rumors that Washburn might be the assistant DL coach, but Nathan Ollie kept that position. Instead, Washburn will help the defense and also work in the personnel department.

Last year Washburn was the “advanced projects coordinator”. That sounds like a made-up title for a young coach that the team wanted to hire. There is no salary cap on coaches. I’m all for hiring smart guys and then finding roles for them over time.

Washburn has been an OL coach for multiple teams, but he also has been a scout and worked in personnel. The Eagles obviously think very highly of him if they made him Director of Player Personnel. You don’t give that position out lightly. This is someone the team really liked.

Because of his background as an OL coach, Washburn could offer the defense a set of eyes that looks at things differently. There could be real value in that.

The Eagles think very highly of Barwin, Celek and Sproles so it isn’t a shocker that they tried to keep those former players around. There is a real balance in trying to reward former players with jobs and wanting people who are the best at what they do.

The best example is Dan Marino. He told the Dolphins he wanted to be GM so they gave him a front office job. Marino lasted about a week. When he realized how many hours and how much work was involved, he quit.

This group could be very different. None of them were huge stars in the NFL. You can make a case for Sproles as a Hall of Fame candidate, but that’s partially due to the sheer volume of his numbers and the length of his career. He played 15 years. Sproles came into the league as an undersized RB/RS and worked his tail off to become the player he did.

Celek was a late round pick who played more than a decade. He came in as a pass-catching TE and developed into a good blocker through hard work.

Barwin had the easiest route, coming in as a second round pick. He was an athlete with good size. Barwin played a decade and was very much a blue collar type of player.

All three of these guys should have the right mentality to handle off-field jobs. I was around Barwin and Celek at the Senior Bowl and they sure seemed to be taking their new jobs seriously.

I’m not always a big fan of highly successful former players getting into coaching/scouting. Too often they seem stuck in the role of former player and not current coach/scout. Some guys can flip that switch. Duce Staley is a terrific RBs coach. Ozzie Newsome was a great GM. John Lynch sure looks like a good GM right now. I had my doubts about him, but he’s off to a great start with the Niners.

Celek, Barwin and Sproles were excellent leaders during their playing careers. They were high character guys who were just as good off the field as on it. There can be real value in keeping those guys around. I would rather the Eagles do this than keeping veteran players on the roster too long.

Is there a fear of too many cooks in the kitchen? That is always possible.

All of these guys will report to Howie Roseman. It is up to Howie to decide if they are giving him good advice and information. He obviously feels strongly enough right now to give them the chance.

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Moves Are Official

Posted: February 6th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Moves Are Official

No more speculating. The Eagles have announced all their coaching moves.

From the team’s website:

The Philadelphia Eagles have announced the following coaching staff changes:

• Rich Scangarello – Senior Offensive Assistant

• Press Taylor – Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach

• Matt Burke – Run Game Coordinator (defense)/Defensive Line Coach

• Marquand Manuel – Defensive Backs Coach

• Aaron Moorehead – Wide Receivers Coach

• Andrew Breiner – Pass Game Analyst

• T.J. Paganetti – Assistant Run Game Coordinator/Assistant Running Backs Coach

• Dino Vasso – Assistant Coordinator/Defense

There aren’t any major surprises in there. We weren’t sure about titles and responsibilities. Now we have a better idea of that.

Press Taylor will stay as QBs coach, but he will also have more input into the scheme and gameplan. I am fine with that move.

Scangarello is here to bring in new ideas and to help shape the offense. You can bet the Eagles wanted him for his ideas on the Kyle Shanahan offense.

Breiner has an interesting title. Obviously he will focus on the passing game. I’m sure the Eagles also wanted him for his offensive ideas, having worked in some explosive college attacks.

I hope Moorehead brings stability to the receivers room. The Eagles have had a new receivers coach every year under Doug Pederson. That has to change. Moorehead played at the pro level and coached at the college level. He could be just what the Eagles are looking for.

Paganetti is a young coach the Eagles seem to like. This will be his fourth season with the team. They give him a bit more responsibility every year.

Now for the defense. We’ve known Burke would be the DL coach for a while. Run game coordinator? That’s an interesting title. We’ve seen some teams do things like this, but it certainly isn’t common. If you do split duties, the DL coach focuses on the run game.

Marquand Manuel is a coach we’ve talked about. He seems like a solid addition. Manuel did a good job with developing young DBs while with the Falcons. The Eagles need to do a better job of developing their young DBs.

Vasso is another young coach the team likes. He’ll focus on pass defense and helping to run that side of things.

The Eagles aren’t going with a traditional staff, but I’m okay with that. Football is constantly evolving. Titles aren’t as important as abilities and responsibilities anyway. If Pederson hired the right men, they’ll get the job done and get this team back to winning big.

Too often I think people get caught up in names. I don’t remember fans going nuts when the Eagles hired Frank Reich or Jim Johnson. Steve Spagnuolo was unknown when the Eagles hired him. Sean McDermott slowly and methodically climbed up the coaching ladder over the course of a decade before he became the team’s DC.

I like the combination of internal promotions and finding outsiders. I also think there is something to be said for having a young coaching staff. Go get young guys that are hungry, driven and energetic. Mix them in with veterans like Jim Schwartz, Jeff Stoutland and Ken Flajole.   You do need combinations of ages, backgrounds and personalities.

Let’s hope Pederson found the right guys.

*****

Jeff McLane wrote an interesting piece on the changes.

He’s got a few good nuggets in there.

Maybe most interesting…some of the coaches have already been working for the team and just weren’t announced. I know some people worried about the team being delayed in getting a start on their offseason work. The coaches have already been working on that. Even some of the new guys.

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The New Model

Posted: February 5th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles hunt for an offensive coordinator took an interesting turn on Wednesday. Rather than going for a veteran offensive coordinator or an up and coming offensive coordinator, the Eagles went with no offensive coordinator at all.

So to speak, anyway.

I kinda like this.

Doug Pederson – Head coach / play-caller
Press Taylor – Passing game coordinator
Jeff Stoutland – OL coach/Run game coordinator
Duce Staley – RBs coach / Asst Head coach
Justin Peelle – TEs coach
Aaron Morehead – leading candidate for WRs coach?
Rich Scangarello – QBs coach ?
Andrew Breiner – Offensive assistant

I wrote about Taylor recently. With his background, OC might be more of a natural position for him than QBs coach.

We don’t know Scangarello’s title yet. I’m assuming he would be the QBs coach. He held that position in SF in 2017 and 2018 before going to Denver to be the OC last year.

I like adding Scangarello to the staff. He coached at the college level for 15 years, all with small schools. You aren’t having success at that level by virtue of recruiting stars. You have to out-scheme opponents and develop talent, traits that serve you well at all levels.

Scangarello coached under Kyle Shanahan in ATL and SF. I know Shanahan is catching a lot of flak for his game management in the Super Bowl, but he is brilliant when it comes to scheming, especially in the run game. I wanted the Eagles to bring in someone from his staff for that reason and also to help with the short passing game. SF led the league in yards after the catch. That’s been a weakness for the Eagles the last couple of years.

Scangarello really is an interesting addition.

Breiner has spent a lot of time coaching under Joe Moorhead, who is a gifted offensive mind at the collegiate level. Breiner worked under him at Fordham and then took over as head coach there when Moorhead went to Penn State. Breiner joined Moorhead at Mississippi State for 2018 and 2019.

How would Breiner describe the offense he and Moorhead ran?

“It’s a multi-tempo spread offense that is gonna first and foremost always pride itself on the ability to run the football,” Breiner said. “The in vogue cliché term now is the ‘RPO,’ which Joe has done a great job with developing his toolbox of RPOs, and to be aggressive with down-the-field shots whether off a drop-back pass or play-action.

The Eagles offense will remain Doug Pederson’s offense. But he’ll now have more input from Taylor. Pederson will have new outside voices in Scangarello and Breiner. They will bring a variety of ideas from the collegiate and NFL levels.

You may wonder about going away from an OC position, but this is something multiple teams are doing. As with most football ideas, it works if you have the right coaches and the right players. The Niners got to the Super Bowl without a pure offensive coordinator. This isn’t some random idea, but rather a growing trend.

Will this group of personalities work well together? There won’t be a shortage of gifted offensive minds or interesting ideas. But the coaches have to get the ideas to mesh in order for them to work.

Pederson is usually very good at managing people so I think he can absolutely make this work.

A year from now we can judge this move, praising the Eagles for thinking outside the box or ripping them for being too unconventional.

I do like the guys they brought in from the outside so I’m optimistic that Pederson will get the most out of their ideas and the offense will be better in 2020.

*****

This was interesting.

Orlovsky is a huge Carson Wentz fan. We’ll have to keep him in mind for future staff changes.

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