One Man’s Trash

Posted: August 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 213 Comments »

We’re getting to that time of the year when there will be a lot of cuts, including some big names. Many fans will see news of a cut and instinctively think “Let’s go get that guy!” That is completely understandable. For some reason, we always want players from other teams. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, as the old saying goes.

Players get cut for a reason. Take CB Keenan Lewis for instance. I saw the Saints cut him and was surprised. They have been awful on defense in recent years. How could they cut a solid starting CB? Lewis says defensive coordinator Dennis Allen doesn’t like him. Sean Payton says that’s not true and the issue is simply health. Lewis missed 10 games last year. He has only practiced once this summer and might not be ready to get on the field for another couple of weeks. The Saints don’t trust him to stay healthy so they let him go.

If you think about Lewis from a couple of years ago, he was a big, physical CB who played really well. Signing him now would not guarantee you’ll get that level of player even if Lewis does get back on the field. You always have to balance the past and the present. If a player has performed at a high level, it makes sense to have interest in him. At the same time, chasing history can be a waste of time and resources. With a guy like Lewis, I think you wait until he’s healthy and then bring him in for a workout. Not the Eagles, but someone who needs corner help. I like the duo of Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll for now, with Ron Brooks in the slot and young guys like Jalen Mills and Eric Rowe as depth.

Buffalo cut RB Karlos Williams over the weekend. The Eagles seem unsettled at RB so Williams is at least worth a discussion. Williams had a terrific rookie year, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and running for 7 TDs. So why did he get cut?

Williams ballooned up to more than 260 pounds in the offseason. He lost some of the weight, but then added some back…during Training Camp. How is that possible? Clearly there are issues with his dedication and discipline.

Should the Eagles have interest?

Tough question. I think Duce Staley is the kind of coach who could help Williams. That said, Staley isn’t patient with knuckleheads. He expects his guys to work hard, on and off the field. I don’t know if Staley would want to deal with a player who has some issues with dedication and work ethic.

The other problem is roster numbers. Ryan Mathews is the starting RB. Darren Sproles is a backup and key role player. He’s also your PR. The team has high hopes for rookie Wendell Smallwood. And Kenjon Barner has had a strong preseason. He also is a backup at PR and KOR, giving him real roster value.

I don’t see the Eagles keeping 5 RBs so someone would have to go. To me, that makes the move unlikely. If Smallwood was seriously hurt and you could put him on IR, Williams might be of interest. Smallwood hasn’t played in the preseason yet, but that’s because the team is being very careful with him. They like Smallwood quite a bit and want him to play this year.

The Eagles do not have a great roster. They have spots that can be upgraded. You can bet Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas will be watching the waiver wire carefully. They might find a player here or there who can help this team. I would think they will be looking more for young help, knowing that the Eagles best days are going to be in the future. Some players won’t pan out, but every now and then you will find an Al Harris or Darwin Walker and those guys can turn out to be key players even though they were little-known when claimed off waivers.

*****

Graham played well on STs, but he has terrible hands and wasn’t a threat to make the roster.

O’Neal looked pretty good, but the Eagles have numbers at RB and Byron Marshall also ahead of him.

Rush flashed a bit of ability, but wasn’t seriously pushing for a roster spot.

Bruce Johnson, my hero, was cut. Ugh. I think he had a tough situation. The Eagles have a good C in Jason Kelce. They have Josh Andrews behind him. They gave snaps at C to Steve Wisniewski and Barrett Jones. Johnson didn’t light it up in the preseason. Cutting him now may be the best thing that could have happened. Some other team that is light at C might have interest and give him more of a chance. I loved watching him in college and hope he gets another shot somewhere. I’ll be pulling for him.

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Updating the LB Situation

Posted: August 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 113 Comments »

Joe Walker’s ACL injury is a tough blow for the Eagles. He played well in enough in Training Camp and the preseason games that I think the team would have been comfortable with him as the backup MLB. Now he’s gone and Don Cherry moves into that spot, although on a very temporary basis.

Cherry has had some good moments in the preseason, but he’s not played to the level where you would want him on the field in a real game. I don’t know if he has that level of talent in him. The Eagles need to bring in someone from the outside, be it Stephen Tulloch, some other veteran or even another young player. They need someone with starting potential.

Najee Goode has been terrific this summer and is clearly the #4 LB. He has played WLB and SAM. He’s been a starter in place of Mychal Kendricks and the defense hasn’t missed a beat.

Deontae Skinner has been the backup at WLB. He lacks ideal speed, but is a powerful, physical player. He’s grown on me as I’ve watched the preseason games. I think the Eagles could keep him on the roster and be okay. Obviously the team will be looking for possible upgrades as cuts start to happen. Let’s remember, we’re talking about someone who would primarily play on STs if he was even active on gamedays.

Quentin Gause has played pretty well this summer, but not to the level where he’s seriously pushing for a roster spot. He is more likely to be competing for a practice squad job.

Myke Tavarres has been disappointing. There is no question about his physical potential. But he’s making a huge jump from a tiny school to the NFL and that seems to be slowing him down. I think his talent is worth developing so I would pencil him in for the practice squad.

If you want to sum it up, the starters are good. The primary backup on the outside is good. The big hole is the backup at MLB.

Normally you can take a chance with a backup spot, but Jordan Hicks has durability issues. That changes things and makes the backup MLB spot more important. The obvious move is to go sign Tulloch. He knows the scheme and he and Jim Schwartz are very close. The problem is that Tulloch wants to start. I don’t know if he’s ready to sign with a team where he wouldn’t even be competing for the starting job.

I would have no problem with Schwartz telling Tulloch that he’ll rotate him in every third series and on some sub-packages. Hicks needs to be on the field, but resting him here and there might also be a good idea. Limit the wear and tear his body takes.

I think the defensive staff has done a great job this spring and summer with developing depth. That’s always a huge concern when you go from the 3-4 to the 4-3. The backup DL have played lights out. There won’t be enough jobs to go around for them. Goode is playing better than I’ve ever seen. Walker looked like a good young LB before getting hurt. There are several young DBs who have taken a step forward.

The challenge from this point on will be making changes on the fly, as injuries occur. We’ll see how the coaches and the personnel staff work together to solve the problems that come up. The first one is finding a backup MLB.

*****

Interesting.

I have to also think the presence of Tim Hauck helps. He was an undersized SS that stayed in the NFL by being a big hitter and reliable tackler. He understands the importance of good tackling. He also understands that current players who are bigger and stronger than him should have no excuse for not tackling well. Tackling is about two things: effort and technique.

It is also possible that Jaylen Watkins and Ed Reynolds knew their careers were not going to last much longer if they continued to be liabilities when it came to tackling.

Whatever the reason(s), it worked.

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Progress

Posted: August 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 134 Comments »

No Ben Roethlisberger. No Le’Veon Bell. No Anotonio Brown.

More importantly, no points.

The Eagles shut out the Steelers 17-0 on Thursday night. Had the Big 3 been playing, things would likely have been different. Still, the starters were only in the game part of the time. The Steelers had a lot of the 2nd quarter to work against backup LBs and DBs. They still failed to score.

Anytime the Eagles opponent has a goose egg, I’m a happy man.

The big story of the second preseason game is that the overall team showed progress. The offense still has a long way to go, but it was worlds better than last week. The return of Jason Peters allowed Matt Tobin to move back to the second O-line unit. That stabilized both groups and the blocking was much better this week.

I’m not a huge fan of what the Eagles did with the backup OL. They had this look:

LT Matt Tobin
LG Barrett Jones
C Josh Andrews
RG Stefen Wisniewski
RT Lane Johnson

I would rather Andrew Gardner have played RG. He played well there in 2014 and last summer. You could have then shifted Wiz to LG. I think that is important because if Isaac Seumalo struggles, you need someone ready to step in at LG. I want Wiz getting more of his work there. Jeff Stoutland knows Barrett Jones from Alabama. Maybe that’s a player he really likes and wants to make it. I just feel like Gardner has shown he can start and at least be an effective RG. Why not build on that? He also has some value as a backup because he can play OT in an emergency.

The WRs actually looked like…WRs. They didn’t suddenly turn into elite studs, but Nelson Agholor had a very impressive catch. Rueben Randle took a big step forward from last week’s embarrassing effort. Rookie Paul Turner was terrific. He now looks like a player who will make the team. He impresses over and over. That isn’t to say he’s some big time playmaker that scares defenses, but he is a solid role player and that has real value.

Sam Bradford was efficient, but hardly inspiring. To be fair, penalties hurt him and the offense. That is a major issue that has to be corrected. There is still to much sloppy play. Chase Daniel looked like a functional backup QB. Amazing what happens when you have a LT who can actually block and your receivers make catches for you.

The defense wasn’t facing the best Steelers players, but still had a good night. They picked off backup QB Landry Jones 4 times, including one that went for a TD and 2 others that came in the end zone. Those are big time plays. The defense also had 4 sacks and shut down the Steelers run game, after giving up a few yards early on.

CB Nolan Carroll had the pick-six and played well all game long. He broke up a deep ball and drew an OPI call on another deep throw. He and Leodis McKelvin look like they will be the starting CBs this year. Eric Rowe did some good things. He broke up 2 passes and played with more confidence. He also looked better on STs. That’s progress. Struggling players don’t magically turn awesome overnight. They get better one day at a time.

Jaylen Watkins had another strong game. He had a couple of tackles and picked off a pass. He is making a strong push to be the #3 Safety for the Eagles. I thought his tackling issues would kill him in this defense. Kudos to the young man for taking a big step forward and getting his career on track.

Marcus Smith had been quiet recently due to suffering a concussion. He got back on the field and actually played pretty well. He was the backup RDE. He was in on 4 tackles, had a sack and TFL. He showed serious burst off the edge and also made some effort plays. That’s progress for him. Steven Means was the backup RDE last week, but moved over to LDE last night. He was terrific again. He got regular pressure and was disruptive. If Smith can build on his performance, he Eagles are going to have some interesting decisions at DE.

DT Destiny Vaeao had a beautiful sack in the game. He exploded off the ball and fought through a hold to nail the QB. He and Taylor Hart are likely battling it out for the final DT spot.

There was some bad news last night.

The Eagles now need a backup MLB. You’d have to think they’ll call Stephen Tulloch at this point. Walker had played well in 1.5 games and looked like a sure bet to make the team. Now he’ll focus on getting healthy for 2017.

Grymes had a legit shot to make the team as a backup DB. That can still happen, but other players can now try to take advantage of his absence.

The Eagles are now 2-0. That doesn’t mean anything for the most part, but the team has found a way to win a pair of ugly games. This year’s team will likely need to win some ugly games so it does say something that they’ve been able to do it in the preseason.

Remember that last year’s Eagles were dominant in the summer, winning 36-10, 40-17, and 39-26. That last score is misleading. The Eagles were up 25-0 in the 1st quarter. The point of this is that the team had early success and built big leads. They weren’t tested at all. Then came the regular season and suddenly the opponents were the ones with the lead. The Eagles struggled to deal with that because things had been so different and so easy in the preseason.

Winning ugly this preseason could help the team because that’s the likely formula for success when September rolls around.

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Game Review – PS Opener – PHI 17, TB 9 – The Defense

Posted: August 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 466 Comments »

There has been a lot of optimism and even excitement about the Eagles defense. Doug Pederson hired a terrific defensive coordinator in Jim Schwartz. He has a strong track record of success. And Schwartz moved the team back to the 4-3, which is a better fit for the Eagles personnel. Good coach. Good players. Good scheme.

Last Thursday we finally got to see the new Eagles defense in action. It was everything we hoped for. There were sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, tackles-for-loss and just some overall good play. Tampa ran 21 times and gained only 31 yards.

Schwartz is a demanding coach and he will have plenty of things to correct. Screen passes were way too effective. Those are going to burn you when you attack the way the Eagles do, but you still have to limit their effectiveness. There were some plays where defensive backs took bad angles or were in bad position. There were a few missed tackles. There were some dropped interceptions. The Eagles played well, but that’s not good enough for Schwartz. He wants the defense to be great.

I thought the defense looked surprisingly cohesive. There were a lot of young and new players on the field, all in a new scheme. There weren’t many missed assignments from what I could tell. There wasn’t a lot of confusion. The defense played well as individuals and as a group. That’s very encouraging.

One of the real highlights for me is that the new staff has gotten several players to up their game. That’s a sign that the coaches know how to teach and to motivate.

DL

I’m not going to say much about the starters. We know these players well. I thought everyone looked comfortable in the new scheme. If Fletcher Cox didn’t get his strip sack of Jameis Winston, Bennie Logan was there to sack him. Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry brought heat off the edge. Brandon Graham stood out on a couple of run plays. The starters on the DL should have a big year. The questions I had were all about the backups.

Beau Allen – I wondered if Allen would be traded, or even cut. I didn’t see him as a good fit for the new scheme at all. He was a 3-4 NT as a Senior at Wisconsin and then for the past 2 years in the NFL. He looks like a NT. In watching the game live, I thought he was okay. When I went back and studied the game, I was blown away. Was that really Beau Allen? He was quick off the ball. He was disruptive. He used his strength and power well. I loved his motor. Used his hands well in shedding blocks. Had one play where he used a club move to get by the LG and hit the QB just as the ball was out. Used quickness on another rush and got a big shot on the QB. He had a TFL and half a sack. Based on what I saw, he not only will make the team, but deserves to be part of the DL rotation.

Taylor Hart – The Training Camp reports have not been encouraging on Hart. But he played well in the game. I always thought he could be a player that Schwartz might like. Schwartz tends to like tall interior DL. And Hart is more athletic than most people realize. Hart was quick off the ball. He looked like a natural fit at DT. Had one TFL. Got to the inside and the OG couldn’t block him. Hart was a playmaker in college and you could see that ability in the game. Also did well when he had to take on double teams. Got some pressure on the QB.

Destiny Vaeao – The UDFA has generated good buzz at TC. You could see why in the game. He showed a good combination of size, strength and athleticism. Had one TFL. Didn’t stand out like the others, but looks like he could be an ideal practice squad candidate.

Aziz Shittu – Solid showing. Made one tackle. Shed block and grabbed RB as he was headed upfield. Got off blocks and helped on some other run plays. Expected to see more quickness out of him.

Steven Means – Fantastic game. Played RDE and got pressure on several plays. Used quickness off the edge to get by the LT. Used a spin move to pressure the QB into throwing an INT. Had a strip-sack where he got by the LT and knocked the ball out of the QB’s hand from behind. You want backups and young players to jump off the screen. Means did exactly that, living up to the TC hype. Not just a 1-trick pony. Did a good job of setting the edge on run plays.

Alex McCalister – Up and down game. Played LDE. Got pressure on the final couple of plays of the half. Set the edge well on the play where Vaeao got his TFL. RB had nowhere to go. Got pressure on the final series of the game. Used a great shoulder dip to fly by the RT. Has serious potential Must be more consistent.

LB

Jordan Hicks – Good game. First time playing MLB in the NFL. Was in on 2 tackles. Made smart reads and played his gaps well. Just watch this clip from Fran Duffy to see how Hicks combines IQ and ability.

Nigel Bradham – SAM. Up and down game. Got burned on a couple of screens. Was unable to beat the blocker and stop or even slow down the plays. Stuffed one run play for a short gain. Was physical with blockers in the run game.

Najee Goode – Great game. Opened things up with a strip of the returner on the opening kickoff. Flew down the field and hit the KOR hard, knocking the ball loose. Played WLB with the starters and then SAM with the backups. Had 3 tackles on defense. One time he put a receiver down short of the sticks on 3rd down. Blitzed and lit up the QB on a pass play. Flew around the field and was physical. Definitely the top backup at LB.

Joe Walker – Solid showing in his first NFL game. Backup MLB. Played well enough the team can be comfortable with him for another week, if not more. Walker didn’t make any obvious mental mistakes. He showed good range in coverage. He shot up the field on run plays. His highlight moment was getting a TFL on 4th/1 run. Walker made a good read, penetrated and made the tackle. Also had a couple of tackles on STs.

Deontae Skinner – Backup WLB. Had a couple of tackles. Blitzed and hit the QB. Didn’t stand out, good or bad.

Myke Tavarres – Played on the 3rd string D. Has a long way to go. Showed his athleticism late in the game when he came up and hit receiver quickly and physically. Has some burst and is a powerful hitter. Looked raw, but talented.

Don Cherry – Good game. 3rd string MLB. Got in on a couple of tackles. Looked solid in coverage. He’s not going to push for a roster spot, but does have some talent.

Quentin Gause – Picked off a pass. CB broke it up and ball got knocked into the air. Gause hustled over and picked it off. Added a nice return.

S

Rodney McLeod – Didn’t play a lot. Was in on a couple of tackles. Had some pop. Mainly played deep.

Chris Maragos – Best game as an Eagle. Recovered fumble on opening KO. Started at S. Played near the LOS a lot and was very good against the run. Credited with 2 tackles. Helped clog running lanes on a regular basis. Picked off a pass. Looked like he was in Cover 2 and made a good play on an overthrown pass. Did have to go up and catch the ball up high. Not a gimme. Had a big hit on STs.

Jaylen Watkins – The best game he’s played since 3rd grade. Maybe ever. Missed a couple of early tackles. Immediately I thought “Here we go again.” Oops. Watkins got his stuff together and started making plays and tackles all over the field. Credited with 4 solo tackles. Sure seemed like more than that. Biggest thing for me is that he was aggressive. Old Jaylen reached. He wanted to look like he was trying, but his heart wasn’t in tackling. The guy on Thursday went after people. That’s a huge step forward for him. Was outstanding in coverage. Only credited with one pass breakup, but he was all over guys on several plays. Covered TEs on short routes, but also covered well when playing back at deep Safety. Took a huge step forward in trying to become the #3 Safety.

Ed Reynolds – Like Jaylen, another guy with a history of bad tackline. Like Jaylen, he looked like a completely different player against the Bucs. Led the Eagles with 7 tackles. Had a TFL when a run got spilled to the outside. He flew up and put the guy down. Looked comfortable in 8-man fronts where he had to play in heavy traffic. Had one bad moment in the game. Could have tackled the WR who caught the lone TD, but didn’t make the play.

Blake Countess – I had high hopes, but he didn’t stand out in a good way. Had a STs penalty. Later screwed up in coverage by taking a bad angle and turning a short gain into more than it should have been. Needs to get a lot better in a hurry if he’s going to challenge for a roster spot.

Nick Perry – Dropped an easy INT late in the game. Ball came right to him. Just dropped it.

CB

Leodis McKelvin – Made one mistake, but it was costly. Dropped into zone coverage. Read the play and knew where the ball was going. Got there, but for some reason didn’t get in front of the WR. Tried to play the ball from behind. Missed and the WR had an easy TD. Should have been broken up at the least, possibly picked off. No idea what McKelvin was thinking on that play. Quiet game other than that.

Ron Brooks – Played inside and outside. Highlight play came on 3rd down. Allowed short catch, but kept the receiver just short of the sticks. Good tackle.

Eric Rowe – Disappointing. Continues to struggle in the new defense and I don’t know why. Drew an OPI call, but that was generous. He’s not terrible, with receivers just running by him left and right. But he looks nothing like the guy who flashed good ability last year. Doesn’t seem to be playing with confidence. Had a STs penalty as well.

Aaron Grymes – Played Nickel. Covered well on short throws. Got in on a couple of tackles.

C.J. Smith – Outstanding game. Aggressive and instinctive. Read routes and broke on the ball. Broke up 3 passes. Picked off one. One of his PBUs was the ball that Gause picked off. Smith deserves more playing time in the next game. Need to see if he can repeat that performance.

Jalen Mills – Up and down game. Looked good in coverage on some plays. Did draw a PI call and got away with PI on another play. Had perfect coverage on a throw over the middle and drew an OPI on that. Needs to tackle better. Also made mistakes on STs. Showed good ability, but way too sloppy.

Denzel Rice – Solid night in coverage. Played inside and outside. Got in on a couple of tackles.

Randall Evans – Tackled well. Had 4 solo stops. Didn’t stand out in coverage. Played outside.

STs

Donnie Jones – Averaged 47.4 per punt, but did have one shank and a couple of touchbacks. Had one 62-yard blast that completely flipped the field.

Caleb Sturgis – Nailed a 42-yd FG. Right down the middle.

The Eagles had the guys doing different things on kickoffs. They weren’t just crushing the ball. Tried kicking right to the goal line to force returns. Both Sturgis and Parkey did pretty well at this.

Cover units allowed 21-yd punt return and 25-yd KOR. That needs to be cleaned up.

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Risky Business

Posted: August 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 217 Comments »

Dorial Green-Beckham is an absolute stud wide receiver. All you need is a time machine to get back to the year 2013 when he was a Sophomore at Missouri and caught 59 passes, with 12 of them going for TDs. DGB looked like exactly what NFL coaches would want in a #1 WR.

Big.

Good hands.

Athletic.

Playmaker.

Strong, physical player.

If you told me in 2013 that the Eagles would trade Dennis Kelly for DGB, I would have asked you to go with Lane Johnson for a drug test. (Too soon?) But that was then and this is now.

DGB was kicked out of Mizzou. He went to Oklahoma and finished out his college career before being taken in the 2nd round by the Titans. As a rookie, DGB was 32-549-4. Those are solid numbers for a rookie WR. There is no questioning the fact that DGB has NFL size and ability.

The Eagles had hopes for their WR corps. They hoped Nelson Agholor would make the jump in his second year that so many young players do. They hoped Josh Huff would take a step forward. They hoped that either Chris Givens or Reuben Randle would take advantage of 1-year prove-it deals. They took a flyer on T.J. Graham, a speedy receiver with bad hands. The Eagles thought Jordan Matthews would be the foundation for the group and the others simply had to fit around him.

Unfortunately, Agholor has had an offseason to forget, both on and off the field. Huff has been wildly inconsistent. Givens and Randle have each flashed at times, but neither has looked like a player desperate to prove his worth to the Eagles or the rest of the league. Graham remains fast and with bad hands.

You can see where Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson felt this was a move worth making. Beckham is a huge receiver. That’s something the Eagles don’t have. Beckham instantly has the highest upside of any Eagles receiver. Simply put, he had the kind of talent they felt was too good to pass up, baggage or not.

The downside to this move is that Pederson is a rookie coach. And he doesn’t have some tremendous track record as an assistant. A young coach like that is better off with a team of grinders and overachiever types. He needs players to buy in to his ideas and actions. The 2016 Eagles can be a competitive team, but aren’t going to win the Super Bowl. This year is about building the team for the future. You want players that are smart, tough and who will play their asses off. That’s how you build a foundation.

This could turn out to be a terrific move if DGB somehow clicks with this coaching staff and his new teammates and comes anywhere close to playing up to his talent level.

This will be a bad move if DGB proves to be another headache for Pederson. Young coaches can be overwhelmed by distractions. Pederson has to stay focused on building this team and not obsessing on how to deal with another underachiever. In theory, the presence of DGB should get Agholor, Huff, Givens and Randle fired up. It is a signal to them that they aren’t getting the job done. But there is something strange about adding an underachiever to spark the underachievers you already have on your team.

Mr. Charles, Mr. Wonder is here to give you a ride to the airport.

*****

As to the O-line side of things, this move is all about the future. I said recently I would rather have the Eagles start Dennis Kelly at RT and leave Allen Barbre at LG.

The Eagles are going to try Isaac Seumalo at LG and Barbre at RT. Seumalo could be the LG for the next 5 to 10 years if he adjusts to the NFL and plays to the level of his ability. Barbre is a temp at RT, holding the spot until Lane Johnson can take back over. In the future. Johnson will likely move to LT. The Eagles would love Halapoulivaati Vaitai to be the RT of the future. We’ll have to wait and see about that.

Unless Seumalo is just awful, the Eagles seem to want to get him on the field. There is no substitute for experience so there is definite logic in trying to force him onto the field. This week’s game will be big for Seumalo. He doesn’t have to magically turn into Larry Allen. He does have to show definitive improvement.

The Eagles may not be headed to the Super Bowl this year, but they need a functional LG. Seumalo has to prove he can be that guy.

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