Longing for the 4-3

Posted: March 31st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 51 Comments »

Chris Long loves the 4-3 defense. Even more than I do. He passed up a chance to stay in New England and be part of a title contender because he wanted to get back to playing in an attacking 4-3 scheme. That’s one of the key reasons he chose the Eagles. Fit.

Long explained that in his press conference, which was entertaining and interesting. He talked about playing almost half his snaps in the 3-technique spot last year. That is the DT who rushes the passer, Fletcher Cox’s normal role. Long said he was happy to play inside, but you could tell that he really wants to get back to lining up in the Wide-9 front and firing off the edge. That’s where he’s most comfortable and he can still be effective out there.

Long isn’t here to magically turn into a dominant pass rusher. He is here to help the Eagles have a better rotation than they did last year. As much as everyone loves Connor Barwin off the field, he didn’t play all that well last year. He had 5 sacks in a role where he was asked to get after the QB as his primary function. His run defense was highly inconsistent. Barwin lost contain on a regular basis.

Long shouldn’t have that problem because he played in the Wide-9 front on a regular basis. He understands the rush angles. He understands what his role is in stopping the run.

You can think of this as a trade of Barwin for Long. Barwin is younger (less old?) by a couple of years, but he was more expensive and proved to be an awkward fit. Barwin is at his best in the 3-4. Long had the opposite problem. He played in the 3-4, but is a better fit at 4-3 DE. Scheme does matter.

This move makes total sense to me. I mentioned Long as a possible target in a recent column.

It is possible that a veteran like Chris Long or Mario Williams would be interested in a role as a pass rusher in Schwartz’s scheme. Williams played for him in Buffalo in 2014. Long played in a similar system when he was with the Rams. If the Eagles want a cheaper, younger option, they could go for Devin Taylor or Ryan Davis. Taylor is the big guy at 6-7, while Davis is built more like Graham.

You build a strong DL by continuing to throw a lot of resources at it. Brandon Graham will start at one DE spot. Vinny Curry and Long will battle for the other job. Marcus Smith will try to show that he has taken another step forward and can contribute even more. Steven Means will be fighting to make the team and get regular playing time. Alex McCalister will be fighting to make the team.

The Eagles are checking out all kinds of draft prospects. They are looking at 1st rounders and late rounders. They are checking out sleek rushers and bigger guys. They want to add another body to the mix. A strong DL can make a huge difference in a league that is all about throwing the football.

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Smart for both sides. Brooks was effective in the slot last year and the defense struggled when he got hurt. He’s hardly anything special as a player, but is worth bringing back at a cheap rate. And Brooks wasn’t going to be highly sought after so staying put for less money was a wise move.

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Eagles Draft Talk – Quick Hits Edition

Posted: March 31st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 166 Comments »

Just some quick thoughts on the Eagles and prospects this morning.

More than a few people like LB Reuben Foster and would love to see the Eagles take him. I don’t like Foster as a target. Good player to be sure, but I don’t think he’s worth pick 14 to the Eagles. I’ll write more on him in the future.

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The Eagles are bringing in WRs Shelton Gibson and Chad Williams for visits. It really seems the Eagles covet a speedy wideout to add to the passing game. That isn’t to say they might not go for a slower WR if it is the right guy, but they are showing a serious desire to add a vertical threat. Bryce Treggs better be renting and not shopping for a house.

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The Eagles had a DL coach in Tallahassee to help workout DE DeMarcus Walker of Florida State. I like this quite a lot. Walker is flying under the radar a bit right now, but had a great season and has good pro potential. He is 6-4, 280 and can rush off the edge or up the middle. Real interesting guy who could be a target in the 2nd or 3rd round.

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I have no idea what is going on with CB Teez Tabor. He ran 4.62 at the Combine. That kicked him out of 1st round talk. Wait for his Pro Day, we all said. He ran 4.75. Ouch times infinity. He’s out of the 2nd round now. Heck, he won’t be on all 32 draft boards. I love the kid’s game tape, but I’ve never seen a good player run this poorly. I don’t know what to say.

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Dalvin Cook re-ran the 40 at his Pro Day, but skipped the other athletic tests. Weird. He struggled in those tests at the Combine and I thought for sure he’d want to improve them. With all his issues, I still don’t know if he goes in the early part of the 1st round.

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The Eagles need a #3 QB. There isn’t anyone in this draft class I’m enamored with who would be great value. The team did have a workout with Nathan Peterman of Pitt. Good player. Is he worth the Eagles spending a mid-round pick on? Probably not. If they think he’s great value, okay, but I don’t think that’s the case. C.J. Beathard could be available late. He would be an interesting target.

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The more I think about DL Chris Wormley from Michigan, the more the idea grows on me. He’s 6-5, 297 and a really good athlete. Having him and Fletcher Cox attack up the middle together would be a lot of fun to watch. He wouldn’t be ideal against the run, but Beau Allen can be the run specialist.

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One late round player I do like a lot is Patrick Gamble from Georgia Tech. He is 6-4, 279. That’s not an ideal build for a DT, but this guy is disruptive and has a lot of potential. He’s hurt right now so that lowers his value, but he is talented.

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The Eagles have shown a lot of interest in RB Matt Dayes from NC State. But what about the studs, turds and other good players that everyone talks about as early targets? I think the Eagles want to take a RB early. However, other teams don’t always cooperate. They have a nasty habit of taking players the Eagles want. That happened with OL in 2014 and 2015. It happened with DTs last year. The Eagles are smart to have some targets in the rounds 4-6 area.

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Breakfast With Doug

Posted: March 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 89 Comments »

The NFL owners meetings were held this week in Phoenix. Jeffrey Lurie spoke to the media for about a half hour on Tuesday and Doug Pederson spoke to the media at breakfast on Wednesday for an hour or so. Let’s focus on Pederson and what he had to say.

First…there were no bombshells or nuggets of serious interest. You can watch the talk here at PE.com. I would advise you to skip that. If you want to watch something exciting that takes place in Phoenix, watch the movie Sicario. You’ll only get half-way through in an hour, but it is a brilliant film and you’ll happily spend another hour to finish it. The film is incredibly intense and you can think of it as offseason practice for watching Eagles games that come down to the final possession.

Back to Pederson. I thought he made one really good point about Carson Wentz.

“So for him to just be able to exhale, catch his breath, come into this offseason knowing that he’s the starter, not having to guess if he’s going to be the starter, it’s big for him. It’s part of his maturity. It’s part of the growth at that position and we definitely want to see incremental process. It’s not going to be an overnight change, obviously, but it’s going to be that each day we’re getting him ready to go for day one, for opening day.”

As simple and obvious as that sounds, I think there is real value in Wentz knowing he’s the starter. He will work with the first unit all spring and summer. He knows to carry himself as the leader of the team. He knows he has to be ready, mentally and physically. When you are third on the dept chart, things are more complicated. You don’t want to step on any toes. You have to be somewhat deferential. You also find yourself throwing a lot of passes to guys that will be washing Jimmy Bama’s car a few months from now. Being the starter changes your mentality and places you in the best environment.

Pederson talked about the need for a break from football.

“It’s like I tell every player. Get away. Relax,” Pederson said. “I don’t want to see you, you don’t need to see me. Get out of the building, go on vacation, heal up, rest, do all of those things that you need to do and be ready to come back fresh on April 17. Take some time for yourself. For him it’s hard because he wants to throw every day. You say take some time away and don’t touch the ball. Come back ready to go, and we’re excited.”

Compare that to Bill Belichick’s message.

Obviously Belichick doesn’t mean that to be taken literally. He even takes a few days off. But he wants his championship team to avoid relaxing or letting up so he is sending a strong message with the “No Days Off” chant.

When you compare that to Pederson wanting his 7-9 team to get away from football and come back refreshed, it looks awkward. They are very different situations so this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but I just find the messages interesting.

From what Doug said, it sounds like the Eagles will be open to adding a player with character concerns, possibly a star like Dalvin Cook or Joe Mixon. Pederson didn’t get into specifics. He doesn’t want to give away the Eagles draft plans. He just said that something like this is possible, but there needs to be the right fit. I think he means the player has to fit the scheme, the player’s personality has to fit the locker room and the value of the pick has to make sense. We aren’t going to know anything for sure until late April.

Pederson was asked about going to Los Angeles, where the Eagles have two road games this year. He explained that the Eagles did request they be back-to-back so the team can stay out there. Will find out if that happens in a few weeks.

There was a strange moment when Jeff McLane asked Pederson about his scouting report on Alshon Jeffrey. Pederson basically said that is proprietary knowledge. McLane then asked for a few comments on the star WR’s game. Pederson awkwardly said a few things about him. Then he compared it to evaluating O-linemen and flew off with a list of key things to look for in a good blocker.

That was a softball from McLane, not a gotcha question. I have no idea why Pederson gave such an odd response.

McLane did ask a tough one about why the Eagles gave a high tender to TE Trey Burton with such a deep draft class of TEs. Why spend that money? Pederson talked about Burton as a key STer and overall good player.

Jimmy Bama asked about Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a future starter. Pederson said he showed “dynamic” potential last year. I thought Big V had a solid rookie season, but you have to put disclaimers around him. He played well “for a rookie”. He played well “under the circumstances”. I do think Big V showed the potential to develop into a future starter, but I didn’t see anything dynamic about him. To be fair, I haven’t watched tape of him in a few months. Maybe I’m overlooking something.

Pederson had plenty of praise for Isaac Seumalo. That’s a guy who doesn’t need disclaimers. He was impressive and did show the potential to become an outstanding starter.

*****

Les Bowen’s take on Doug’s talk

Jeff McLane’s take

*****

This is great.

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What’s on Sale?

Posted: March 29th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 146 Comments »

We all love a good bargain. Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas are no different, so they made a couple of moves today.

Is the roster complete? No. Are the Eagles headed to the Super Bowl? Probably not.

But these were a pair of good moves. Long joins Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry to give the Eagles a talented trio of pass rushers. Jim Schwartz likes to rotate his rushers so it is critical to have at least 3 players you feel strongly about. Long might start. Curry might start. That will work itself out in Training Camp. The key is that the team now has a trio of guys that can pressure the passer.

Long played in a similar scheme during his time with the Rams. He was good at lining up out wide and attacking off the edge. He understands the rush angles and how to keep contain on run plays. He is a good fit on and off the field. Long is a veteran player and high character guy. He will fill the shoes of Connor Barwin. Don’t expect him to be as good off the field, but let’s hope he’s better on it (as a 4-3 DE).

Robinson is more of a risk. He has 49 career starts, but is far from a sure thing. Jimmy Bama broke the story of the Eagles and Robinson and has a few details on him here.

The Eagles needed a veteran CB to add to the mix. Robinson is a veteran and he does have some talent. He hasn’t been a consistently good player in his career and that’s part of the reason he was still on the market. Robinson is the kind of guy you sign this time of the year and hope he plays well for you. Sometimes a veteran will finally get into the right situation and will play the best football of his career.

Lorenzo Alexander was a good role player until 2016. The man who had 9 sacks in 9 years came out of nowhere to have 12.5 sacks and play like Lawrence Taylor. He was in great physical shape and things finally clicked for him as a positional player. He’s the anomaly of course, but the point is that talented players can play well for you if things come together for them.

I need to watch tape of Robinson before offering much of an opinion. At the very least, he is competition for a CB job.

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Do these signings affect the draft at all? Yes and no.

The Eagles still need to add a pair of CBs. Robinson’s presence doesn’t change that.

DE is a bit different. The Eagles don’t need someone at this point, but they will likely still want to add a young, talented rusher. They could do that in the 1st round or they could wait til the later rounds and take a chance on someone that could have time to develop. This is a talented group of pass rushers. There are some real interesting guys who could be available in rounds 5-7.

Hunter Dimick – Utah
Keionta Davis – UTC
Avery Moss – Youngstown State
Deatrich Wise – Arkansas

I’m just throwing some names out there. We don’t know who the Eagles like.

Your goal is to be able to go into the draft and focus on talent over need. Adding Long and Robinson helps, but it doesn’t take CB and DE off the table at all.

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What About McCaffrey?

Posted: March 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 235 Comments »

We’ve talked about Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook as 1st round RB possibilities for the Eagles. What about Christian McCaffrey?

I think McCaffrey would be a great fit in the Eagles offense. He is incredibly versatile, with the ability to make plays as a runner, receiver and returner. McCaffrey can run inside or outside. He can line up in the slot and kill LBs. He was amazingly productive at Stanford and then had a tremendous showing at the Combine. McCaffrey is an outstanding prospect.

Put simply, he is a weapon.

That’s also kind of the problem.

McCaffrey reminds me a bit of Reggie Bush, who you may remember was also an amazing college player. Bush is one of the most dynamic college stars of all time. He had a solid NFL career, but never came close to being the same kind of player as he was in college. Check out his NFL stats.

The question isn’t whether I’d like McCaffrey to be an Eagle, but rather is he worth the #14 pick? You and I can make our case, but the real key here is Doug Pederson. He would have to have a plan for how to use McCaffrey. If you say “He’s a talented weapon, let’s add him to the mix”, then he’s not worth pick 14. If Pederson has a vision for how he wants the offense to look and McCaffrey is part of that, then there is a good case for him being worth a pick that high.

If you watch the following clips, you’ll certainly think McCaffrey is worth a high pick.

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