Checking in on Nate Sudfeld

Posted: May 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

A year ago, not many Eagles fans had heard of Nate Sudfeld. He had a solid career at Indiana, but hardly anything spectacular. He was the number three QB for the Skins, but there wasn’t much talk about him developing into a starter in the future.

The Skins cut Sudfeld last September and the Eagles called him right away. They wanted Sudfeld for the practice squad. The coaches obviously made a good pitch and convinced Sudfeld to come to Philly. Around midseason, the Colts tried to sign Sudfeld to their roster. He talked with the Eagles and they decided to offer him a roster spot. The coaches had seen enough over the first eight weeks to decide they valued Sudfeld and wanted to keep him.

After the injury to Carson Wentz, the coaches began talking about Sudfeld publicly. They expressed their confidence in him as the team’s backup QB. Rather than sign a veteran, they stuck with the player who had been with them since September.

Sudfeld got to play in the season finale. Nick Foles got a few series and then was tucked away for safe keeping. Sudfeld brought some energy to the game, but was up and down. His biggest highlight was this run.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/947559182848233472

Fran Duffy took a look at sever passing plays.

You can see Sudfeld has potential, but he still needs plenty of work.

The coaches spoke so highly of Sudfeld from December on that there started to be some hype around him. That made it disappointing when Sudfeld only looked so-so at the OTA practice that was open to the media last week.

You have to be careful at this time of year, good or bad.

Donnel Pumphrey looked terrific last May. Patrick Robinson was dreadful. Or worse. Obviously things were very different by late August. Pumphrey was the bum and Robinson had turned into a key player for the defense.

Sudfeld is in his first offseason with the Eagles. He has a new offensive coordinator and a new QB coach. He’s also the backup QB. That didn’t mean much in the December practices because starters get almost all the reps. Now Sudfeld is getting a lot of work. That will take some getting used to.

This offseason is a huge opportunity for Sudfeld. He needs to show the Eagles (and the rest of the league) that he is capable of being a good backup, or even better, a future starter. Don’t get too up or down on him based on May and June. Training Camp and preseason games will be the real keys for Sudfeld. Still, it will be interesting to see what the practice reports say about him for the next month.

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Saturday Night Ramblings

Posted: May 26th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Saturday Night Ramblings

The NFL Network has been showing episodes of America’s Game, the story of each Super Bowl winner.

As much as I love NFL history, shows like that used to bug me. Now that the Eagles are part of the fraternity, it feels different. I don’t have to be bitter or jealous that the 1969 Chiefs or 1970 Colts won titles (I just happened to catch those episodes today). The Eagles have their Super Bowl. They are part of NFL history.

Feels so good to know that.

*****

I re-watched parts of some games earlier today for a piece I was writing. I forgot that Fletcher Cox missed part of the Giants game and then all of the Chargers and Cardinals games.

I also forgot Jaylen Watkins is the guy who replaced Ronald Darby. That didn’t last long. Watkins got hurt and missed several games.

Seems like that was a lifetime ago.

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Going back to the NFL history thing for a second…I hope one of the benefits of the Super Bowl win is that fans can now be more appreciative of the title teams of 1948, 1949 and 1960. Those were amazing teams and they won NFL titles.

It just happened that they won it all before the Super Bowl existed. Go tell Vince Lombardi that his title teams of 1961, 1962 and 1965 mean less than his Super Bowl teams of 1966 and 1967. I’m sure he’d crawl out of his grave and knock you upside the head. An NFL championship is an NFL championship.

I think the problem for Eagles fans is that embracing those title somehow felt bad because the Cowboys, Giants and Skins all had Super Bowl wins. The Giants and Skins also had NFL titles to look back on. Now Eagles fans can point to their Super Bowl win, but also acknowledge the great teams of Steve Van Buren, Chuck Bednarik and Norm Van Brocklin.

Speaking of Eagles history…for those of you who like to read about the old days, here is a fun look back at the 1951 Eagles. Did you know Bud Grant was an Eagles player? He is most known for being the coach of the Vikings when they lost four Super Bowls. Grant was a good player and even better coach.

He’s also one of the great characters in league history.

Sleeveless at -6? What the heck would Sam Bradford say about that?

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Eagles Add a LB

Posted: May 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

With Paul Worrilow out for the year, the Eagles needed help at LB.

On the Seth Joyner to Ernie Sims scale, he’s much closer to The Shark, unfortunately.

Wilson was the MLB for Arkansas State and led the team in tackles. He is 5-11, 229. Put on the tape and you see some things to like. He is a wrap-up tackler. He’s got some pop when he hits. Physical player. He is patient and shows good vision. He fills well.

The problem is that he’s got stiff hips. Wilson can go hit what’s in front of him, but he can’t open his hips and go flying out wide. Check out his agility drills and you see that confirmed. His shuttle time of 4.75 and 3-cone time of 7.72 wouldn’t be good for an O-lineman that was 300 pounds. They’re absolutely horrible for a LB. Levon Kirkland from 2002 would have posted better numbers.

I wish him all the luck in the world and hope he proves me dead wrong, but he sure looks like a camp body.

*****

I wrote a piece for PE.com on the Eagles size.

Chip Kelly built big teams and then focused on playing fast. There is something of a logical gap in that thinking.

Doug Pederson built big teams and then focused on that size. He mixed in tempo at times, but used that as a tool rather than making it the foundation of his team. That is some pretty smart thinking.

Building a big, physical team isn’t enough.

I recently watched the All of Nothing series on Dallas. Very good. Time and again Jason Garrett talks about being physical up front. Dallas has a terrific O-line and run game, but that’s not enough in today’s NFL. You must be a good passing team. Not just play-action, but you must be able to throw the ball vertically and efficiently.

Andy Reid loved having a giant O-line. He then had them pass block 40 times a game. He wouldn’t commit to running the ball on a regular basis.

Pederson is somewhere between Garrett and Reid. Pederson has built a team that can physically overwhelm you, but also can sling the ball around. The highlight of the All or Nothing series for me came when LB Anthony Hitchens was doing prep work on the Eagles and said “Their receivers are always wide open.”

That’s not an accident, my man.

Pederson and his staff did a brilliant job of scheming and gameplanning. Pederson then did a great job of calling plays on gameday. Combine that with a huge O-line and physical RBs and you have an offense that was dominant for most of the year.

It also helps you bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

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Pumping Up

Posted: May 24th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Pumping Up

To say Donnel Pumphrey had a disappointing rookie season would be a slight understatement. He might have come up big in May and June, but he was small in July and August. Downright tiny, you might even say. He came up way short of expectations. After going on injured reserve, all he could do was spend the season trying to get better, little by little.

It sounds like Pumphrey learned quite a bit. Marcus Hayes wrote an excellent piece on Pumphrey. This wasn’t your typical offseason “he’s in great shape” piece. Hayes got Pumphrey to admit that he wasn’t ready for the NFL and Duce Staley’s tough coaching.

“Last year, me and [Duce] weren’t as good as we are now,” Pumphrey said Tuesday after the Eagles’ first OTA session. “I was taking a lot of criticism from him. I needed to look myself in the mirror, and just learn from him.”

Pumphrey was a great college player. His size wasn’t an issue and he piled up the most yards in NCAA history. Pumphrey got to the NFL and things changed. He had Staley pushing him hard, which can be challenging for any RB. Pumphrey also had to adjust to being part of a RB group rather than a workhorse. Oh yeah, there was also the challenge of going against NFL defenders every day.

Pumphrey needed to get stronger mentally and emotionally. It sure sounds like going from college star to NFL scrub got his attention. Rather than blaming Staley or his teammates, Pumphrey acknowledged his issues and dealt with them.

Knowing his job is on the line, Pumphrey also got stronger physically.

Pumphrey visited teammate Darren Sproles in San Diego for cross-fit-style training sessions that left Pumphrey retching into garbage cans. He now weighs 186 pounds, about the same as his training-camp weight last year but now sculpted, with wider shoulders, broader chest. thicker thighs.

Pumphrey also had a man-to-man talk with Staley a few weeks ago. He came away a better man than he was this time last year.

Training with Sproles and talking to Staley is a good way to get better. Sproles has been in the league since 2005. He knows a thing or two about how an undersized player can have a successful career. Staley played for a decade and is now in his 8th year as a coach. He knows what it takes from the perspective of a player and a coach.

The biggest issue for Pumphrey is being small. He is legitimately doing something about that.

He visited Sproles in San Diego for five cross-fit-type training sessions. Sproles, who will turn 35 next month, is 5-6 and 190 pounds of bionic maniac. From him, Pumphrey learned what it takes for a little man to make it in a big man’s league.

“We’d be, like, lifting, and the trainers would give us a 10-minute break,” Pumphrey said. “And Darren would go over to the treadmill, and turn it up as fast as it would go, and sprint the entire rest time. It’s unreal. First day, I was yakkin’. And he’s still going, full reps.”

Pumphrey needs to have a good spring, but the real test for him will be August. He must play well in Training Camp and in the preseason if he’s got any chance to make this team and carve out a career for himself.

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This isn’t a case of Corey Nelson vs Mychal Kendricks. You have to factor age and cost into the equation. Nelson is younger and cheaper, which is important for a player who will be the #3 LB on a team that plays two of them most of the time.

In terms of ability, Nelson has better cover skills. That is important to Jim Schwartz and the Eagles. While Kendricks was athletically gifted, he had poor instincts when it came to pass coverage. Nelson is a good athlete and shows a good feel for man coverage.

There is risk here. Kendricks is the more talented player and he’s got far more experience. Nelson is the better fit from an overall perspective so that’s why the Eagles made the move.

All the more reason to cut Kendricks. That’s a lot of cap space.

Will the Eagles use that to sign Brandon Graham to an extension? Will they re-sign Corey Graham? Will they add a backup MLB with Paul Worrilow now out?

They have options.

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Crazy Day

Posted: May 23rd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Crazy Day

What didn’t happen on Tuesday? That might be easier to answer than covering everything that did.

Let’s start with the headlines.

  • OTAs got underway.
  • Carson Wentz got on the field and threw the ball. And he looked pretty good.
  • The Eagles cut LB Mychal Kendricks.
  • Backup MLB Paul Worrilow tore his ACL.
  • Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett were the only guys who weren’t at practice.
  • Sidney Jones played in the slot.
  • A report surfaced that the Eagles were offered the 35th pick for Nick Foles during the draft and turned it down.
  • Doug Pederson held a press conference.
  • So did Wentz.

Random Tuesdays in May aren’t supposed to be that busy. Now let’s talk about what happened.

Wentz is the big story. He hasn’t been fully cleared and probably won’t be until some time in August. That didn’t stop him from getting on the field and participating in some drills.

https://twitter.com/JClarkNBCS/status/998959336834682881

That does not look like a dude moving on a rebuilt ACL. Wentz still has a long way to go in his recovery, but the fact he tore his ACL six months ago is hard to believe when you see that kind of movement. Wentz is a tireless worker and the presence of Foles probably adds some pressure for him to return as quickly as possible. I don’t mean pressure from Foles or the team, but rather internal pressure. Wentz wants to be on the field. He wants his job back.

While Wentz was opening eyes with his comeback, Mychal Kendricks opened eyes with his absence. The Eagles finally cut him. This simply had to happen. Kendricks is a talented player. He just helped the team win a Super Bowl. The problem is that he was going to be the #3 LB on the team and play in about 30 to 35 percent of the snaps. If that. Kendricks isn’t paid like a role player. The Eagles gave him a big deal a few years back when he was a starter.

They tried to trade him last year and this offseason. No one was willing to give up a pick because they expected the Eagles to cut him. Teams knew the Eagles just couldn’t pay a role player that kind of money.

Besides, the team signed Corey Nelson in the offseason to come in and compete for Kendricks’ job. Nelson is paid like a role player and he’s much better in coverage so that really wasn’t much of a competition. Nelson was going to get the job, barring an injury or arrest or something like that.

It is ironic that the day the Eagles finally make a move with Kendricks, another LB goes down. Worrilow tore his ACL and is done for the year. He was going to be the backup MLB and could also play outside if needed.

Now Joe Walker will be the official backup MLB. In reality, Nigel Bradham would slide inside and another OLB would take his spot. I’m sure the Eagles will look around and see if they can find another veteran MLB type to come in and compete for a job.

Doug Pederson mentioned at his PC that Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett were the only two players not in attendance. Since they are proven veterans, Pederson said he’s not worried. Bennett is new to the team so it would be nice to have him here, but as Pederson pointed out, he’s a D-lineman and those guys have a pretty simple job. It is easier to change teams with a position like that than if you played QB or OT or S.

Sidney Jones is going through his first real offseason as an NFL player. Last year he was rehabbing his Achilles. Now, he’s practicing. Today he spent time in the slot. He is the best fit of the Eagles top CBs when it comes to playing inside. Jones is bigger than most slot guys, but his athleticism and skills give him a chance to play well there. Eventually he will play outside. I think Avonte Maddox will be the slot in the future. That could happen in September or in 2019.

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The really odd nugget of the day came from writer Michael Silver.

The key here is that the report says the Eagles talked to Foles and he said he preferred to stay in Philly.

That makes total sense. Foles played for the Rams in 2015 and things did not go well. He needs the right situation around him. Cleveland has added some talented pieces, but that organization still seems pretty dysfunctional.

Foles wants to stay with the Eagles and then hit the free agent market in 2019. If he doesn’t play much this year, teams will remember his playoff performance. If he does play, he’ll have a good situation around him and that gives him a good chance to succeed.

The Eagles did the right thing. Foles helped them win the Super Bowl. You don’t just trade that guy anywhere. You have to do right by him. Plus, the Eagles might need Foles this year. You only deal him if it is a great offer and he’s on board with it.

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Jimmy Bama has up some practice notes. Great stuff here on Wentz.  Read the rest of this entry »