Howie Roseman is in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine. He spoke to the general media on Thursday and then spoke to the Philly media in a casual Q&A. Howie didn’t drop any bombshells, but that was to be expected. He is always careful with what he says. That can make for some boring press conferences, but it is the smart way to deal with the media. Being honest and/or outspoken can be entertaining for fans, but it doesn’t help the team at all.
The main PC was uneventful. At one point Howie was talking about finding the right players and made reference to the Eagles as a team that runs the ball. I have to say, that comment made me smile. It really does feel good to think of the Eagles as a running team. The run game is key to the scouting process now. The wide receivers must be good blockers. The TEs must be willing blockers with solid potential. The O-linemen must be good run blockers. And you need 2 to 3 good RBs on the roster.
Howie talked a lot about competition. I know some people think this is a load of bunk. Others don’t get all the talk of competition. Does it really mean anything?
I think it does mean something. Let’s take Seattle for example. In 2012 they had a good veteran rusher in DE Chris Clemons (11 sacks). They had a talented rookie rusher in Bruce Irvin (8 sacks). Rookie Greg Scruggs had a couple of sacks. So what did the team do this past offseason? They drafted DTs and then signed Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and O’Brien Schofield as free agents. Instead of signing one guy or maybe two, they brought in three pass rushers. They wanted competition on the DL.
Check out what they did at RB. The team had an elite runner in Marshawn Lynch. They had a young back named Robert Turbin that they spend a 2012 4th round pick on. When the 2013 draft rolled around the Seahawks spend their first pick (2nd rounder) on RB Christine Michael. Then in the 6th round they added Spencer Ware. That is a very gifted set of RBs.
Seattle’s weak spot has been the OL in recent years. They didn’t spend any 2012 picks on blockers and didn’t take one in 2013 until the 7th round. You can find RBs anywhere, but Seattle spent a 4th, 2nd and 6th rounder on them over 2 year while virtually ignoring the O-line. To be fair, Seattle did spend a late pick in 2012 on DL J.R. Sweezy and then converted him to OG. This past April they used a 7th rounder on OL Ryan Seymour.
I would have ripped the Seahawks for adding RBs and virtually ignoring the O-line, but that worked for them. They obviously didn’t like the blockers in the last couple of draft classes as much as they liked other players. Instead of worrying about need, they focused on adding players they liked. You can argue about the merits of this philosophy, but it certainly worked for them. And Pete Carroll preaches competition more than any other coach in the NFL.
I sometimes think people misunderstand the word “competition”. It isn’t an insult to the players currently on the roster. You aren’t necessarily saying “we must have competition here to get better”. You’re really talking about stocking up on talent and letting the players battle for snaps. If the Broncos came to you and said for a 7th round pick you can have S Rahim Moore, S Duke Ihenacho or TE Julius Thomas, the decision would take less than one second and would be Thomas. The Eagles need Safety help, not another TE. But Thomas is too talented to pass up. You grab him.
If the talent level is close, you always go for need, but things don’t always work that way. And sometimes competition is a good thing because it can push the players already on your roster. The goal is to find the best players possible, whether through free agency, the draft or on your own roster.
The interesting thing here is his comment about spending resources. Too often we assume that if you spend a high pick or give out a big contract, a problem gets solved. It doesn’t work like that. Throwing resources at a problem doesn’t guarantee anything. You need answers…the right answers.
If there is a Safety worth handing a big contract to, do it. If there is a Safety worth taking at 22, do it. But don’t force those moves just to say “We tried to solve the problem in a tangible way.” Sure, that will appease some fans and media, but you need to make sure to use those resources wisely. Remember that we’re always one play away from having a big hole at any spot on the roster.
Howie did say that the Eagles would be willing to make a big move in free agency if the circumstances were right. They won’t overpay for the heck of it, but if the right guy hits the market and the price makes sense, the Eagles will pull the trigger. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward might seem like great targets, but we don’t know what the Eagles think of them. I’m still not convinced Ward will hit the market. He feels like a serious franchise tag candidate. The Eagles would prefer a slow and steady approach, but Howie did mention that the team isn’t afraid to take risks. In a few weeks, we’ll find out if this is the right set of circumstances for taking a risk.
The Eagles have prioritized retaining Jeremy Maclin before Riley Cooper as the wide receivers near free agency, according to NFL sources.
If all goes to plan, the Eagles will sign Maclin to a one-year contract and attempt to acquire another starting-caliber receiver via free agency. Cooper remains on the radar, and the Eagles could circle back if they don’t land another target, but securing Maclin will take precedence.
This does make sense. Maclin is the more talented player. Cooper had a terrific season, but let’s not pretend that he did anything that would register as special. I’d love to have him back for the sake of continuity, but you can’t overpay him based on a season. Maclin is also a year younger, believe it or not.
As much fun as it was to have Coop break out in 2013, the Eagles got lucky that DeSean Jackson stayed healthy. Coop would not have been able to be the #1 WR. He isn’t a guy that will beat star corners, let alone double coverage. Mac can be “they guy” if needed. He can thrive in Chip Kelly’s offense if his knee checks out and if he will block for Shady and the runners. I’m guessing sitting out 2013 will have Mac motivated to get back on track.
The other day I did a post on Auburn DE/LB Dee Ford. Included in the post was a video by the guys at Draft Breakdown. A reader watched the video and came away unimpressed. He essentially said, “What am I supposed to be impressed by?”
I don’t have the time to explain what to look for in regard to every prospect and their videos, but let’s walk through one together. I’ve chosen LB Anthony Barr from UCLA. Some fans think he could slide far enough for the Eagles to get him or to trade up and get him. I don’t see that happening, but I’d certainly love to have a talent like him at OLB.
Here is the video.
Before we start, let’s talk about some generic scouting points. Understand that you are trying to identify good pro football prospects. You aren’t looking for purely college accomplishment. We would then just go to the stats page if that was the case. Scouting is as much about how as it is what. A player can go without a sack in a game and still have dominated. Did he occupy multiple blockers on a regular basis? Did the other team gameplan around him? Maybe they threw only short passes. Maybe they avoided rollout plays, which could be a big deal if that is part of their offense. Maybe the rusher got enough pressure to affect the QB even if he didn’t sack or even hit him.
Results are important, but how a player played is the most important factor.
Also, we’re not looking for a polished NFL player. We’re looking for a prospect with the right combination of football skills, size, strength and athleticism to become a good pro football player.
Okay, let’s talk about the video.
* On the first snap, Barr engages the TE, shoves him back, disengages and then gets into the backfield. He didn’t make the play since the ball didn’t come his way, but that was an impressive start. You saw a good burst. You saw strength. Barr used his hands well. Good stuff.
* The 3rd play has Barr in space. He doesn’t accomplish anything since it is a downfield throw, but watch his footwork as he moves around. You can see he is an agile LB that moves well.
* The play at the :45 mark is impressive. He attacks the QB and misses the shovel pass to the RB. But look at the burst he shows as he goes for the QB. That is impressive. This is what I mean by focusing on a player’s skills/ability more than the result of the specific play. NFL coaches can teach Barr how to read keys, but they can’t teach Joe Schmoe how to be more explosive.
* At the 1:05 mark of the video, Barr comes upfield and takes on a blocker. He uses his shoulder. Coaches would probably rather have him use his hands so he could shed the blocker and get in on the play. That can be coached. The good nugget here is that Barr aggressively took on the blocker. He’s not just a “run around” guy. Some rushers have a tendency to run around blocks, thinking they can get by the guy and make the play. Those guys take themselves out of the play about half the time. That’s doing the offense a favor.
* The play at the 1:15 mark once again shows good speed. He also shows body control and COD (change of direction) ability. Barr wasn’t smooth as he did this, but he was able to turn and pursue. Some speed guys are straight line. They struggle to turn and chase.
* At the 1:50 mark you see Barr in coverage. He closes on the underneath receiver almost instantly and then is athletic enough to turn and chase the play out wide. He eventually gets in on the tackle.
At the end of the 1st quarter, Barr hasn’t yet hit the QB on a dropback pass, but he’s shown the elements of being a good pass rusher. We’ve seen quickness, speed, body control, COD ability and closing speed. These are the traits of a good NFL pass rusher. That’s what we’re looking for.
Luckily we have 3 more quarters to see Barr in action, as well as plenty of other games. There is no question that he’s a gifted pass rusher and dynamic athlete. I’d love him to be an Eagle. I just don’t think that is likely.
Are there concerns? Sure. All prospects have issues. I’ll discuss Barr in-depth in a full post. For now I just wanted to walk you through part of a video to give you an idea of what I’m seeing.
1 – S/CB Lamarcus Joyner – Florida State
2 – WR Jarvis Landry – LSU
3 – ILB Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA
4 – DE Will Clarke – West Virginia
5 – TE Crockett Gilmore – Colorado State
5 – CB Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma
7 – QB Keith Prce – Washington
Clearly those are all bad picks. Here is what I would have done.
1 – Anyone but Lamarcus Joyner
2 – Anyone but Jarvis Landry
3 – Anyone but Jordan Zumwalt
4 – Anyone but Will Clarke
5 – Anyone but Crockett Gilmore
5 – Anyone but Aaron Colvin
7 – Anyone but Keith Price
My picks certainly make a lot more sense, right?
Jokes aside, I have mixed feelings on Jimmy’s picks. I love Joyner, but taking a tiny Safety at 22 doesn’t seem like good value. We need to see how big he is, but Joyner lists at 5-8, 190. Bob Sanders was “small”…at 5-8, 206. See the difference? Sanders was short, but did have a thick, strong build. Joyner has more of a CB build than Safety. Put on the game tape and you’ll be impressed, but taking him at 22 seems questionable.
Landry is a solid player. I can’t argue against him too much. I would prefer the Eagles go after Penn State star Allen Robinson. I think he would be a great fit for the Eagles. Zumwalt is a good player that I like. No major argument with him.
I don’t see Clarke as a likely Eagles target. Yes, he’s got great size. I’m sure Kelly, the scouts and Eagles coaches all love Clarke’s frame. But I see him as more of a 1-gap player. He loves to line up out wide and fly off the ball. That’s very different than lining head up on a blocker, reading plays and shedding blocks. I could be wrong and the Eagles could decide that Clarke’s length makes him a worthwhile project. I just have my doubts about him ever becoming a consistently good 2-gap player.
I have no problem with taking Gilmore in the 5th. He would be a good fit. And Colvin might be worth the risk in the 5th. He would sit out most, if not all, of 2014 and focus on getting healthy fo 2015.
Price looked like a star 2 years ago, but never built on his Sophomore season. He has the physicals gifts to start in the NFL. Price needs coaching and time to develop.
I’ll put together my own Eagles mock after the Combine. I’m figuring out a way to get Clowney, Watkins and Pryor. And then Lamarcus Joyner in the 4th round.
It’s easy to get the impression from Kelly that as much as he appreciates Foles’ ability, his search for a franchise quarterback is hardly over.
He insists constantly he’s not looking for a running quarterback, but the read option is obviously a big part of his offense. And the read option is more effective with a fast quarterback than a lumbering one like Foles, whose strength is in the pocket.
Ask Mike Smith about Matt Ryan, and he doesn’t talk about competition. Ask Ron Rivera about Cam Newton, and he doesn’t talk about competition. Ask Mike McCarthy about Aaron Rodgers, and he doesn’t talk about competition.
But ask Kelly about Foles, and that’s the first thing he mentions.
“There’s always competition, and I think you can ask Nick that, too,” Kelly said after the 2013 season ended. “If you also have a guy that’s not competing to be the starter with Nick, then what if Nick gets hurt and then all of a sudden the other guy goes, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not ready to play because I thought Nick was going to be the guy?’
“It’s a cliché, but you are a chin strap away from playing in this league and when your opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of that.
“One of the things we do here is we compete and we have a bunch of guys that compete. Obviously you’ve got to have one guy. Right now, Nick is that one guy, but I don’t think Nick has ever been afraid of competition. He showed me that the first time we had that.”
Roob raises an interesting point with his comments, but there are a couple of factors to consider. As much as we like Nick Foles, he’s never been the starter for a full season. Foles has shown enough to believe he’ll be good, but he’s never been the #1 QB for an entire year. As for comparing him to Ryan, Newton and Rodgers and their coaches…that’s tricky. Smith drafted Ryan. That’s his guy. Rivera drafted Newton. That’s his guy. And both players were Top 5 picks. McCarthy inherited Rodgers, but Aaron was a 1st round pick. And McCarthy got to work with him for 2 years before handing the job to Rodgers.
Kelly inherited Foles when he was a 3rd round pick coming off a 1-5 rookie season. Foles did play exceptionally well in 2013 and Kelly is excited about him, but you don’t just hand that guy the keys to the kingdom with no questions. QB is too important a position to do that. A strong season from Foles this year will change all that, but for now I have no problem with how Kelly is handling the situation.
Mike Mayock held a conference call today and discussed a variety of players and teams. Here is something he said in regard to the Eagles.
Mayock brought up Auburn defensive end Dee Ford on multiple occasions on the conference call as a potential impact pass rusher at the next level and finds him to be a potential fit with the Philadelphia Eagles. “He doesn’t have as much length as you might like,” Mayock said. “He’s a guy with some real edge burst, and a guy who can fit what the Eagles do.”
We’ve talked a bit about Dee Ford, but he’s worth discussing again. Could he be a target at 22?
Ford is 6021, 243. That means he is 6-2 1/8 and 243 pounds. Chip Kelly would prefer a bigger pass rusher, but that size might be acceptable for the rush linebacker. Ford would generally play on the right side and there are plenty of guys in the 6-2, 250 range who have been successful in that spot. Trent Cole currently has the job and goes about 6-2, 260.
Ford has 10-inch hands. Those are big. Compare that to Marcus Smith who is 6-4. His hands are 9 5/8. Hand size can matter in football. Pass rushers want to get their hands on blockers and either drive them back or get them going in a particular direction. Just imagine putting your hand in someone’s chest and trying to push them. The bigger the hand, the easier it is to get force in the push.
Ford has pretty good arm length (32 3/4). That helps him make up for the lack of height because he’s able to get those big hands on the blocker quicker. He wants to be able to extend his arms and keep the blocker off him. The shorter the arms, the closer the rusher has to get to the blocker and that puts the defensive player at a disadvantage.
So while Ford lacks ideal height, his big hands and pretty long arms help him to make up for some of that.
Let’s check out Ford as a pass rusher.
You can see that he is a versatile pass rusher. Ford rushes from out wide, lined up directly over the OT or sometimes even standing up. He isn’t a guy that must do the same thing over and over. Beyond how/where he lines up, Ford is versatile with his mode of attack. He uses a quick burst and speed rush as his base move. He also will bull rush at times. This is where Ford can be so crazy to watch on some plays. Even though he is just 243 pounds, Ford will get his hand in the chest of a blocker and move him backward. That is tremendous strength.
One of the things I like most about Ford is that he can play under control. Some speed rushers fly off the ball at 100 mph on every play. Ford does that on some plays, but there are others when he’ll adjust his path to the QB or he’ll read a run play and go for the RB. Trent Cole does a good job of this and it helps him be a good run defender.
Ford has a really good shoulder dip that makes his speed rush effective. He’s able to get under the pads of the blocker. Ford also flattens out well when he turns the corner. That makes getting to the QB easier. Rushers who round their path are easier to block. The OT can just ride then wide and deep. Rushers that flatten out well are able to get by the blocker and then behind him. Those guys get to the QB more often.
Oddly, I didn’t see teams run at Ford as much as I expected. It used to be common to run at speed rushers. Make them battle blockers and wear them down. Ford did a solid job as a run defender. He didn’t get washed out as much as I expected.
Ford was a 2-year starter for Auburn. He was projected to start in 2011, but suffered a back injury. Ford had 6 sacks in 2012 and 10.5 this past season.
One concern I have is that Ford played mostly LDE for Auburn. The Eagles would want him on the right side. The difference is that he would be going up against LTs and they are the best blockers for most O-lines. Ford certainly has the explosive ability to beat LTs. He just hasn’t shown that he can do it consistently in college. You would be making a total projection with him in the NFL…from DE to LB and from the left side to the right side. How does that affect his value?
I think Ford will go in the 20 to 40 range. Will the Eagles have significant interest? I really don’t know. Chip Kelly was at the Senior Bowl. He saw how dominant Ford was. At the same time, Kelly does prefer big guys. We haven’t seen enough personnel decisions to know how Kelly will read this situation. It certainly won’t shock me if Kelly and the Eagles go for Ford. The team didn’t pressure the passer enough in 2013. I don’t think the Eagles can ignore a pass rusher as gifted and productive as Ford just because he lacks their ideal build.
This is the time of year when rumors run rampant. PFT had the rumor of the day, with Riley Cooper reportedly being in high demand. This isn’t a great free agent class of receivers so I could definitely see Cooper being a target of multiple teams. Here is the PFT report.
Cooper is due to become a free agent. Per a league source, the man who slid into the starting lineup after Jeremy Maclin tore an ACL in the preseason, will have a significant demand for his services if/when he hits the market.
That sure sounds like something that came from Cooper’s agent, but whatever. It does makes sense. Cooper is a young player and is coming off his best season. He could be an attractive free agent target.
There was another part of the report that I wasn’t so keen on.
Cooper’s Chesney concert misadventures won’t be complicating his next contract. The shouting of a racial epithet quickly faded into memory after a short, self-imposed exit from training camp.
How the heck can anyone write that with a straight face? As we’ve discussed plenty of times, Cooper was able to work through the concert incident in large part because of strong support from a handful of key teammates. Jason Avant really stood up for Cooper. Michael Vick did as well. That mattered a lot.
Cooper walking into a new locker room is completely different. Those players won’t know him. They will know his football highlights, but will likely better know him from the horrible racist tirade in the concert video. Cooper will have to overcome that in a new locker room. He had to do it to a much less extent with the Eagles last summer. Being a new guy in a new locker room throws a major complication into the situation. Whatever coach and GM sign him would have to sit before the press and answer questions about the video. That’s mostly a forgotten subject in Philly, but would be front and central on a new team.
I really can’t believe that Mike Florio, the king of conspiracies and crazy story angles, really thinks that story would be a non-factor. Crazy.
I think he’s just a solid outside linebacker. I believe he’d be a great fit opposite Connor Barwin. He plays the run well, he’s strong at the point. I know in 2012 he got hurt but for the most part he’s been very durable. And when he’s durable he’s giving you 10 sacks or more a year and I think that’s what you’re looking at. I think Connor and Orakpo, if they lined up and played 80 percent of the snaps next year, I think you would get 20 sacks out of those guys.
20 sacks? Barwin had 5 sacks in 2013. Orakpo had 10. They would need to match those totals and add an additional 5 sacks. That seems highly likely. Right?
Baldy mentioned QB Josh McCown as a free agent target. I think most people would be in favor of that. McCown was terrific in 2013 when he played in place of Jay Cutler. The problem is that McCown is an older guy that may want to go somewhere that he can fight for a starting job in 2014. I think a few teams could have interest in him. McCown also may stay in Chicago, since he knows he can thrive in that offense and with those receivers.
Chase Stuart of Football Perspective projects the Top 5 teams like this:
1. Seattle – 10.5
2. Denver – 10
3. Philadelphia – 9.5
4. Carolina – 9.5
5. San Francisco – 9.4
It’s important not to infer too much from tables like these. The only inputs are 2013 DVOA grades, and the formula doesn’t know that Robert Griffin III should be a lot better this year or about Houston’s draft picks, Oakland’s cap room, or Green Bay getting twice as much Aaron Rodgers in 2014. But what’s interesting to me is the teams that stand out as different from their Pythagenpat ratings. Here are some thoughts:
The Eagles are projected for nearly one full win more using the DVOA projection (9.5) than Pythagenpat (8.6). That makes some sense, I think, because Philadelphia had excellent offensive pass and rush DVOA grades, and the below-average special teams grade doesn’t mean much. Philadelphia did rank 4th in points, but I think their DVOA grades are farther from the mean than their points scored number indicates.
Stuff like this is just for fun. There are no guarantees that the Eagles will remain a winner next year. Still, it is fun when the computers have nice things to say about your team.
Greg Bedard is an outstanding national writer. He works for Peter King’s MMQB site. Bedard put together his list of Top 50 free agents and then listed teams where they would be a good fit. Here are the Eagles fits, … Continue reading →
Thank you all for the congratulations for the engagement! We couldn't be happier! Fly Eagles Fly, Tori & Nick — Nick Foles (@NFoles_9) February 25, 2014 Nick Foles got engaged and it wasn’t to Jimmy Bama? Crazy. Congrats, Mr Foles. […]
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