Eagles Trade for a RB

Posted: August 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 111 Comments »

The Eagles had gone for months without making roster moves until Tuesday. Then the floodgates opened, so to speak. In the afternoon, the team cut ILB Jason Phillips. In the evening, the Eagles traded a conditional 7th round pick in the 2015 draft for RB Kenjon Barner of the Carolina Panthers.

While eating dinner tonight I was doing some roster projections. RB was one of the mystery spots. LeSean McCoy will be the workhorse. Darren Sproles (not Foles as I for some reason keep calling him) will be the primary backup and an offensive weapon.

That’s all we know for a fact.

The team wanted Chris Polk to be the #3 RB. They liked what they saw from him last year, but he’s been hurt this summer and hasn’t played in a game yet. Potential and ability are great, but you can”t make the club in the tub, as the old saying goes. Polk has to be considered somewhat of an unknown at this point.

Matthew Tucker had a chance to challenge for a roster spot. He played pretty well in the opener, but did have a bad fumble. He was hurt and missed last week’s game. Tucker is a player the team likes, but he’s still somewhat of an unknown.

UDFA rookie David Fluellen and Henry Josey have each flashed in the preseason games, but neither has looked so good that you are going to hand them a roster spot right now.

I think there is another angle to consider…Josh Huff. He hurt his shoulder in the Pats game. Huff was expected to compete for a spot as a RS. We don’t know if he’s just out for a couple of weeks or might end up on IR. He doesn’t need surgery, but does need time to recover.

Barner is a RB and RS. Kelly coached him for 4 years at Oregon. Barner lacks ideal size at 5-9, 196, but is a good fit for this running attack. He is a North-South runner. He isn’t explosive, but has deceptive speed. Barner has a smooth running style that makes it look like he’s not going all that hard. Barner has excellent balance and okay strength for his size. He doesn’t go down on first contact. He has good vision and moves his feet pretty well, but lacks the ability to make dynamic cuts.

Barner is a role player at RB. He could also help as a RS. From PE.com.

“He averaged 22.5 yards and scored one touchdown on kickoff returns, while averaging 10.1 yards with one touchdown on punt returns in college.”

This is a good move by the Eagles, as long as you keep it in perspective.

Barner wasn’t a lock to make the Panthers and isn’t a lock to make the Eagles. He provides depth for the final 2 preseason games and is here to challenge for a spot. Barner is a good fit for the Eagles running game so it should bring out the best in him. That said, he doesn’t project to be much more than a #3 or #4 RB and RS.

The value is good. The fit is good. Now it is up to Barner to show what he can do.

This is also a hint to Polk, Tucker and the other RBs to get healthy and stay healthy. Chip Kelly believes in the running game. He is going to have a set of RBs that he believes in.

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The other big story of the day is that the Eagles are looking at other kickers.

As many writers noted today…this doesn’t mean the team will definitely make a move. They want an upgrade over Alex Henery if possible. The available kickers aren’t exactly great.

It is good to know they are at least watching this position. For a while they seemed awfully stubborn about Henery being the answer at PK. This might be too little, too late, but at least they are now addressing the issue, if only by actively studying players who might be available.

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Preseason DGR – NE 42, PHI 35

Posted: August 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 99 Comments »

Not much defense in this game. But plenty of turnovers and penalties. All in all, it turned out to be a successful game. There were no major injures. And some young players stepped up. It was also good to see the starting offense and Nick Foles come alive. They weren’t great but played well enough to make me feel a lot more comfortable about them.

OFFENSE

Plays

* Some of you wondered why all the GL runs for Damaris Johnson. Why not run Josey? I guess he was trying to rest Josey since there was nothing left to prove. The rookie had looked good. With the Eagles having some banged up RBs, why not save him for next week. At this point, Damaris Johnson is expendable.

Players

QB 

FOLES - Looked much better. Amazing what some good blocking will do. Threw a strike to Celek over the middle in the mid-2nd. Held the ball forever on one play. It was a screen that the Pats DL read and Foles was forced to look for other options. Hit Foles in the flat for an easy gain of 6 yards. Tried to hit Momah for a TD down the left side. The ball was just a bit out front and he couldn’t make the grab. Hit Celek with a good throw right after the punt block. Hit Ertz for a short TD. 8-10-81. TD, no INTs.

SANCHEZ- Another strong outing. Came in late in the half. Hit Ertz for a gain of 20. He was covered well, but Sanchez put the ball up high and gave his guy a chance to make a play, which Ertz did. The next play was a good throw to Matthews to the left side. That gained 18 yards. Made a good throw to Momah in the end zone that turned into a TD for Benn. Threw a dumb INT to open the 2nd half. Forced the ball to Ertz and didn’t see the DB playing behind him. That DB jumped the pass and made an easy pick. Hit Matthews with some quick throws, over the middle and to the outside. Had an easy TD pass to Damaris Johnson. DJ was in the backfield and just went upfield. The LB was slow to get out there. Easy pitch and catch.

BARKLEY - Solid game. 9-12-132. 1 TD, but that came on a screen. 1 INT, but that came on a WR drop. Just hasn’t stood out the way you hoped so far, but has had some good moments. Came into the game in the late 3rd. Had a pick on his first drive, but it wasn’t his fault. Johnson had a pass go off his hands and right to a defender. Best throw of the night was an 18-yd strike to Cunningham over the middle of the field on 3rd/long. Accurate with some velocity. Threw screen to Josey that went for 27-yd TD on screen. Barkley did sell that play well.
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More on the DL Situation

Posted: August 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 43 Comments »

We got into a good discussion today about production vs potential. There is no right answer. Even having a general philosophy only goes so far. You really have to study specific details to come up with the best answer.

In the hotly contested Bair vs Kruger debate, there is something that must be considered…the overall DL. Cox, Thornton and Logan are all young. You don’t need to develop young guys behind them right away. That trio could be the Eagles DL for the next 3 to 5 years. Beyond that, the Eagles have Beau Allen and Taylor Hart as a pair of guys they expect to be valuable role players. The Eagles can afford to think about “now” vs “down the road” with the Bair vs Kruger situation.

Another consideration here is just how much talent Kruger has. I was a big fan of his coming out of Utah. I was thrilled when the Eagles took him because I saw a player who could become a good 3-4 DE. We are now in Year 2 and Kruger has yet to show anything on the field that makes you go “Look at that guy!”.

Right now Bair is light years ahead of Kruger. The comeback to that is “So what. Bair is just doing this against 2nd and 3rd stringers.” First response to that is…and Kruger is playing the same guys and not looking nearly as good. What does that say about him?

And Bair did get on the field this week against starters and he held his own.

There seems to be this notion that Bair is some scrub from Pleasantville, USA. As a Senior at Oregon, he had 16 TFLs and 8 pass deflections. He went to the Combine. Check out his numbers vs Kruger.

BAIR – 6-6, 276

40 – 4.93
BP – 26 reps
VJ – 28 inches
BJ – 114 inches
SS – 4.37
3C – 7.07

KRUGER – 6-6, 269

40 – 4.81
BP – 24 reps
VJ – 34 inches
BJ – 117 inches
SS – 4.46
3C – 7.17

Bair is stronger and more agile. Kruger is faster and more explosive. But overall, very similar guys.

I don’t want this to turn into a Bair lovefest. I’m not trying to over-hype the guy. I don’t think he’s some hidden version of JJ Watt or anything insane. I see a backup DL who is playing very well. Right now I think he would be the Eagles top backup DE should something happen to Cox or Thornton.

Here is one of the simplest ways I can break this down…right now we are waiting for Kruger to get to the level where Bair already is. If we knew for a fact Kruger would get there, I’d completely say the Eagles should keep him, even if it took another year.

But we don’t know that Kruger will ever get to where Bair is, let alone better. What has he shown you so far that makes you think he will get to that level?

Years ago, I was totally on the Potential Bandwagon. Over time, I’ve been burned by so many guys that I just knew were going to pan out that I no longer automatically jump to that side of the debate. Coaches will tell you that they have to reward production. How can you call a guy into your office and tell him that even though he’s clearly better you are going with the other guy? Obviously if the competition is close, potential becomes a huge factor. That’s when you do go with the guy with upside. But Bair vs Kruger isn’t close. Kruger isn’t even playing as well as rookie Taylor Hart.

The good news about Kruger’s mediocre showing to this point is that he’s got a very good chance to be on the Eagles practice squad. I would love to see him on there. I still think he could pan out, but I’m not seeing enough to give him a roster spot right now. A year of practice could do him a world of good. Next summer he might win the Bair vs Kruger debate.

* * * * *

The NFL is set to expand practice squad rosters to 10 this year. That’s great news. It helps with player development, but also with practices during the season.

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Let’s Talk About the DL

Posted: August 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 144 Comments »

This is Year 2 of the 3-4. The Eagles DL has undergone quite a change since the days of the Wide 9 (I still miss Derek Landri). This group is young, big and deep.

Fletcher Cox gets a lot of criticism. I’m not sure how much of it is warranted. He played well in 2013, even as he adjusted to a new scheme and new role. Cox has not been dominant this summer, but I prefer to see what he does in real games before making any serious judgments.

Bennie Logan has been hurt for much of the summer, but did play on Friday. He looked okay, but didn’t stand out. I’m sure he was somewhat rusty. This week will be a better indicator of where he is.

Cedric Thornton is Steady Eddie. He is a terrific run defender. Thornton’s goal this year is to be a better pass rusher.

That is a solid group of starters. They function well together and fit the roles of the 3-4. The backup DL is going to be very different this year. Clifton Geathers is gone. Logan was the backup NT last year, but is now starting.

Based on what I’ve seen this summer, Brandon Bair is the #3 DE. But what about Vinny Curry? He is a playmaker and disruptive force, but is more of a role player than a traditional DE. I think Bair is a virtual lock to make the roster. Some people will point out that he’s going to turn 30 in November and has no upside. Why keep this guy?

In 2011 the Eagles signed an older player with limited experience. That was Evan Mathis and he turned out to be one of the great FA signings in Eagles history. Last year the team added Allen Barbre as a backup OL. He became the #6 OL and is now going to start for a month.

You don’t want to build around older guys, but there is nothing wrong with adding an older player to the rotation. Bair had a terrific showing this spring and summer, then looked even better in the preseason games. He has earned a roster spot and playing time.

Damion Square is the incumbent backup NT, but I don’t see how he keeps that job over Beau Allen. Square has been okay, but Allen has been terrific. I think Allen is a lock for the roster and Square is on the outside looking in.

Curry is going to be the other backup DE. Obviously he will be a key part of the Nickel and Dime units, where he plays DE, DT and even some NT. I know many of you want Curry on the field even more, but he’s just not a great fit for the 3-4. He’s getting better, but still likes to shoot gaps more than anchor and 2-gap.

Taylor Hart would be the #7 DL and have the final roster spot. He played well in camp and has looked solid in the games, but I don’t know that he’s a guy you want to rush into the lineup. He might be a year away from being a good backup. Hart is right on schedule. He’s played well enough that you are going to keep him and would like to see what he could do. If this were 2013, he would be a backup for sure. The DL is better this year so I think he’ll be inactive a lot.

Joe Kruger looks like he needs a year on the practice squad. He is bigger and stronger. He flashes good physical ability at times. But he isn’t consistently good and he still struggles with 2-gapping. Kruger is young and has upside so I hope the Eagles can keep him on the PS, but he’s not worth forcing onto the roster. He hasn’t earned that and his potential isn’t special.

The only other player I’m really interested in is backup NT Wade Keliikipi. He flashes. He has a NT body. I just don’t know that you can keep him on the PS with 2 other young NTs already on the roster.

I know the talk of Bair over Curry and Kruger will bother some of you, but he’s been the best 3-4 DE of the group. The coaches are telling you what they think by how much they’ve played him and the fact it has happened against starting competition. Bair has earned a roster spot with his play. I wish he was 25, but the fact he’s 29 doesn’t change his game tape. He’s been very good this summer. You don’t keep potential (Kruger) over production (Bair) when one guy is clearly better.

* * * * *

I’ll post the DGR tonight.

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Sunday Night Thoughts

Posted: August 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 70 Comments »

First, some follow-up on the Mark Sanchez-Nate Allen piece from earlier today. While I do think both players have turned things around, I’m still very realistic about who these guys are. I’m not rushing them off to the Pro Bowl anytime soon.

Sanchez is playing well as the Eagles backup. That’s it. SalPal asked the silly question to Chip Kelly about what would happen if other teams called about a trade for Sanchez. As I pointed out in the previous column, Sanchez needs the right pieces around him in order to succeed. Some team with poor QB play isn’t likely to have the right pieces. Sanchez wouldn’t solve their problem.

I do think Nate Allen can be a solid starter. He hasn’t played to that level since his rookie year and I think it is totally fair for many of you to doubt him. His track record is not good. I could be wrong and Nate could lose his starting job by midseason. I’ve just been very impressed by how he’s played this preseason. He’s more confident and aggressive than in a long time. I think he and the starting defense will get into a groove once they play together for a while.

Another point about Sanchez and Allen. I focused on the poor circumstances that had a negative affect on their careers. That doesn’t mean they didn’t play a part in their own struggles. I’ve written about Sanchez and why I think he didn’t succeed in NY. Football wasn’t enough of a priority for him. He was living the good life and being the class clown. Sanchez got a huge piece of humble pie in the last 2 years and seems like a different guy. Allen didn’t have any off-field issues. He just didn’t play well. Part of that was on scheme and health, but part was him just not getting the job done.

Both guys have turned it around this summer.

* * * * *

Let’s enjoy this while we can, but also be careful about making too much of the preseason.

Last summer Philip Rivers had to learn a new offense. In the preseason, he was 20-33-166 with no TDs and 2 INTs. His QB rating was only 48.3. Things looked bad. Then the calendar turned to September and Rivers had a great season, arguably the best of his career. He finished with a rating of 105.5.

I hope Eli has a miserable year, but I’m nervous about getting too excited about his demise.

I watched part of the Dallas-Baltimore game on Saturday. Dallas was down 27-10 at the half. They did dominate the 4th Qtr and were able to make the final score a respectable 37-30. Looks like it could be a long year in Big D.

* * * * *

I’m in the middle of studying the Pats game and doing the DGR. I am really impressed with Brandon Bair. That guy looks legit (as a backup/role player).

One other odd note…after 2 games…I think Todd Herremans has been the best OL. Who would have predicted that?

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