Quality Competition

Posted: June 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 28 Comments »

A year ago, inside the NovaCare Complex.

“Who wants to be the left guard?”

“I do”, said Allen Barbre.

“Done. You earned it with that half a game you played last year on opening day.”

“Now, who wants to be the right guard?”

“Andrew, I can see you raising your hand, but maybe we should give Matty Tobin a shot. What do you say Matty?”

“That would be kinda cool, I guess.”

“Hmm. Andrew, make me an argument why you should get the job.”

“Well, I’m bigger, stronger, and more experienced. Oh and I seem to actually want the job.”

“Okay, it’s settled. Matty and Mr. Gardner will compete for the job. Matty, you’re at the top of the depth chart for now.”

You might wonder how I got transcripts from actual team meetings. I’ve been watching The Americans on FX for several years now and I’ve gotten quite good at planting bugs inside NovaCare. You wouldn’t believe what Fran Duffy recently said about Greg Cosell’s shoes. Those comments really crossed the line.

It is also possible I made all that up. Either way, it feels like that is how the OG situation was handled a year ago. Barbre was flat out given the LG spot. RG was a competition between Tobin, Gardner, John Moffitt, UDFA Malcolm Bunche and whoever else got a shot here or there. The team really wanted Tobin to step up and win the job. He laid a major egg, while Gardner played well and earned the starting role.

This year the Eagles weren’t about to handle things the same way. The team went out and gave a huge deal to Brandon Brooks to man the RG spot. Barbre got the LG job coming off a season-ending injury and with 8 career starts. The coaches did know him from practice, but that’s just not a guy you give a starting job to. He could earn it, but you don’t give it to him.

Brooks has started 44 of the past 48 games. He is in his prime and has a rare combination of size and athleticism. That’s a guy you can hand a job to. He’s earned it on the field.

That left LG wide open. I wrote about the competition there, as well as at CB and WR, for PE.com this week.

This should be a much better competition. The Eagles have several guys fighting for the job and they have all earned the right to compete. You have the incumbent Barbre. He started all 16 games last year so he’s worth giving another shot. You have the rookie Isaac Seumalo. He played well enough in college to be a 3rd round pick and get into the competition that way. You have Malcolm Bunche, the biggest, strongest and most physical of the guys. Finally, you have Stefen Wisniewski, the most experienced one in the group. That is worlds better than a year ago.

We won’t have an idea how things are going until the guys get to Training Camp. You have to see them battling DL where they can really hit and go at each other. You aren’t going to win an OL job in non-contact practices.

The OL did not play well enough last year. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson improved the talent level. Now it is up to coach Jeff Stoutland and his players to perform better.


Matt Tobin and UDFA Darrell Greene will be battling at RG. They’ll be fighting each other to win the backup role. Their job is also to push Brandon Brooks. He’s got the big contract, but you want the players behind him trying to steal his job.

Tobin has experience and versatility on his side. Greene is bigger and more physical. He also has a clean slate. I’m not sure how the coaches feel about Tobin at this point.

May the best man win.


OTA Updates

Posted: June 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 80 Comments »

The Eagles began their final week of OTAs on Tuesday. Nothing too crazy happened, but it is always interesting to check out the practice notes.

Let’s start with Jeff McLane today.

— Here’s your obligatory quarterback update: Bradford had an up-and-down day, but getting a consistent number of repetitions this year vs. last, when he was still coming back from knee surgery, is what matters most. Other media outlets might overhype the importance of two-touch spring football, but perspective is needed. For instance, Bradford threw a pass to Josh Huff that was tipped by corner Ron Brooks into the hands of safety Rodney McLeod. It was an interception, but was it solely the quarterback’s fault? It was a timing pass – maybe Huff’s slant route wasn’t crisp enough. Later, Bradford threw a pass into the back of the end zone that Malcolm Jenkins cut off and knocked to the ground. There wasn’t a receiver in the vicinity. Did Bradford make the wrong read, or did his receiver run the wrong route? Asked later how he thought he performed, Bradford said that he thought it was a productive outing after watching film.

Some great points here by Jeff. Remember when Chip Kelly would be asked about players on other teams and he would respond that he couldn’t really judge them because he didn’t know what play had been called or what the coaches had told them to do? Same point applies here. We don’t always know who is to blame when something goes wrong.

Nelson Agholor was active. The Eagles (desperately?) need him to elevate his play in his sophomore season. They would love for Agholor to develop into a home run hitter, but I’m not sure that he’s a receiver who can consistently take the lid off a secondary. But he has looked smoother running a variety of other routes. He caught an early seam pass from Carson Wentz, a post in the middle of a zone from Sam Bradford and, in perhaps his best moment, caught a comeback throw after he had turned cornerback Eric Rowe around. If Agholor can’t be a consistent deep threat, the Eagles might need to turn to free-agent addition Chris Givens during the season.

It is encouraging to hear that a young player had a good day. You can see if he gets open and if he catches the ball…real basic stuff. One good day doesn’t mean a whole lot, but if a good day can turn into a good week and then a good month, that’s how young players turn the corner.

Next up is Josh Paunil and Tim McManus. From Josh…

10:49 — While standing on the sidelines, I tell Jimmy Kempski that I’ve never been to WaWa (I grew up in Maryland), and he immediately calls me out on Twitter.

10:50 — Twitter death threats commence. 

11:01 — Chase Daniel shouts, “Gotta get that arm loose, 7!” when Sam Bradford doesn’t lead Huff, forcing the receiver to slow down on a deep ball down the left sideline. Daniel hits Agholor in-stride for a 40-yard strike down the right side moments later, followed by another pretty ball to Hunter Sharp.

11:03 — Doug Pederson dials up some trick plays! Daniel throws a bubble screen to Huff, who rolls back and completes a 20-yard pass to Wendell Smallwood. Later, Agholor takes a bubble screen on the left side and tosses one to Carson Wentz, but the play didn’t connect.

I don’t live in Philly and even I’ve been to WaWa. Crazy.

I get the feeling Chase Daniel is one of those guys who just stirs the pot, but mostly in a good way. As long as guys like that don’t have an agenda, they are a good thing. My guess is that Chase is liked by his teammates and isn’t seen as a jerk.

12:00 — Fight! Or a little scuffle anyway. Allen Barbre and Mike Martin engage in some extra-curriculars during team drills before walking away without further incident. Safe to say, Kelly would have cut them both on the spot.

12:12 — Wentz is running a little hurry-up, and threads one to McFarland. He comes back to the same play a beat later and has similar success. Cory Undlin is not pleased. “C.J!” he yells to rookie corner C.J. Smith, “How many times have you seen them run that?”

Duce Staley has some words for his rook as well, letting Smallwood have it when he doesn’t take the right route out of the backfield, leading to a Wentz incompletion.

12:17 — The day ends on a positive note, though, as Wentz feathers a pass into the corner of the end zone that Chris Pantale snags one-handed for the TD. Pederson decides to call it there.

The defensive coaches aren’t scared to really get on players. Duce is a tough guy as well. I can’t share all the stories I’ve heard, but I’m beginning to see how Jeff Lurie thought of Duce as a legit head coaching candidate. He seems to be able to motivate his guys, as well as being tough on them when it is called for.

Wentz seems to make a few throws every practice that impress people. That’s a good sign to me. It’s way too early to come to conclusions, but you want to hear that the high pick is showing some signs of what made him a high pick in the first place.

Finally, we have Jimmy Bama.

• One area where Chip Kelly was tremendous in his tenure with the Eagles was with special teams. Under Kelly, the Eagles probably got more special teams reps than any team in the NFL, and my bet is that it was by a wide margin. Over the last three years, it could be argued that the Eagles had the best special teams units in the NFL. The Eagles under Doug Pederson aren’t getting anywhere near as many special teams reps so far. We’ll see if and how that will affect the 2016 Eagles.

• The kickers made all their kicks today. Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis were both 3-for-3 from distances of about 27, 32, and 38. Parkey had a near-miss on one as hejust kept one inside the right upright on the 33-yarder.

The Carson Daily

Wentz was up and down today, in my opinion. He had some really nice throws, some throws he’ll learn from.

In the “learn from” column, the play design was a fake to the right, then a screen back to the left side. Bryan Braman read it nicely and was able to bat the pass out of the air before it reached the intended target. Those plays can become disasters. It appeared as though Wentz just trusted that it would be open before he turned to throw the screen, and was not expecting Braman to be there.

In the “atta boy” column, he had a gorgeous deep ball down the sideline to Xavier Rush in 7-on-7’s. During the more important 11-on-11 phase of practice, he threw a perfectly placed wheel jawn to running back Cedric O’Neal in the back of the end zone. O’Neal tried to one hand it (perhaps unnecessarily) and could not make the play. But the throw was money. On the next play, Wentz hit TE Chris Pantale on the other side of the field for a TD on what looked to be another well-placed ball, although I didn’t have as great a view on that one.

That is a great point about STs. Those guys got a lot of reps under Kelly and they made them pay off. It will be interesting to see how less practice reps affects the group.

As for Wentz, you cannot expect to see a finished product. He is going to be up and down. You want more ups than downs, and for some of the ups to be really impressive.


PE.com has Sam Bradford’s PC.

Nothing outrageous here, but Sam has a few interesting comments.

It certainly sounds like he, Chase and Carson Wentz are all getting along fine.

I thought the most interesting comment was when he talked about wanting to incorporate some ideas from last year that he thought worked well. If there is something that he likes and the team ran well last year, why not add it to the playbook?


Final Week of OTAs

Posted: May 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 98 Comments »

Today the Eagles begin the final week of OTAs. This isn’t the time of year for making conclusions. This is Lorenzo Booker and Sean Considine season. 90 players are running around in shorts and trying to both learn the scheme and impress the coaches. This isn’t real football.

Focus on the basics. Are QBs throwing the ball well? You want receivers to run crisp routes and then catch the ball. You want RBs to look smooth and show good physical skills. O-linemen can show good footwork and agility. They aren’t allowed to come off the ball and attack defenders so the whole physical side of blocking is left out.

D-linemen are using the most basic of pass rushing moves. LBs need to be in the right gap on run plays and then show they can cover well on pass plays. DBs probably have the most to show. They need to diagnose plays quickly and be in the right spot. They also need to cover well. They aren’t allowed to play bump ‘n run, but the DBs can show you a lot with their instincts and movement skills.

Some writers may talk about Kenjon Barner looking like a starter or Carson Wentz being the smartest QB. Pump the brakes on that stuff. If you have followed football long enough, you know we hear reports like that every year and they rarely turn out as expected.

You can get a lot of false reads in the spring and summer. Remember a few years back when Chris McCoy played lights out and we thought he was a lock to make the team? The guy was great in the preseason. He was a terrific pass rusher. And the Eagles cut him. The Jags signed him and then cut him. McCoy has never played in a real NFL game.

Whether it is seeing someone look great in shorts or beat up on third stringers, this is the time of year when a lot of us can get fooled.


Jeffrey Lurie spoke to Jenny Vrentas for the MMQB on the Eagles QB situation.

5. I think the Eagles’ quarterback strategy comes down to playing the odds, at least as Jeffrey Lurie explains it. “We see it differently than I guess some other people may,” Lurie said at the league meetings. “We see Sam [Bradford] as absolutely the right guy to quarterback the team. We are so rarely able to draft in the Top 5 in the draft. It’s only been twice in about 15-20 years. So we saw the opportunity, and we liked two quarterbacks. We had to make the move to secure having a potential franchise quarterback for many, many years. Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. And it can only benefit us. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. And so when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl. And that’s simple.”

I think most Eagles fans have figured this out as Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have talked about QBs this spring. But just in case…

The Eagles are going back to the old SF/GB model where you load up on QBs. The key to that working is bringing in the right players. Time will tell if the Eagles did that.


Bounce Back

Posted: May 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 127 Comments »

Mychal Kendricks was disappointing last year. Even he agrees with that. Some people try to rip him apart for how he played. I think those people must have missed the 2009 Eagles LBs. That was some bad LB play. Kendricks certainly had his share of bad plays, but he also made some good ones. He did have 3 sacks, one FF and 6 TFLs. In 2009 the entire Eagles LBs corps totaled 4.5 sacks and 3 FFs. No single LB had more than 3 TFLs.

Kendricks wants to get back to where he was in 2014, when he looked like a possible Pro Bowl candidate. Jeff McLane wrote a good story about Kendricks and his need to play better.

Schwartz’s run defenses have historically been solid. Kendricks said that he was still trying to pin down why that is. Linebackers in a 4-3 “under” scheme should specialize in moving downhill north to south. The two-gap 3-4, which often has linemen hold up blockers and read before reacting, is catered more to east-to-west linebackers who can run down running backs in the open field.

“We may see more people in our face, which means we would have to be more physical,” Kendricks said. “I’m all for it.”

To prepare for the physicality of the coming season, Kendricks has bulked up. He said he now weighs 250 pounds. He typically played at around 235.

“I feel strong. I feel fast still. But I’m a lot more stout than I was,” Kendricks said. “I think you can tell. I’m pretty big right now.”

The Eagles would take healthy and consistent.

I think the new scheme fits Kendricks better than some realize. He has one gap to control. There is less thinking and more attacking. Kendricks can do that.     Read the rest of this entry »

Longer Look at Quentin Gause

Posted: May 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

I was mad when the Eagles drafted Ike Reese back in the spring of 1998. I don’t remember who I wanted them to pick, but Reese was a player I didn’t think much of. I didn’t see starting ability in him so spending a 5th round pick on him seemed like a waste.

I was right about the fact that Reese never proved to be a starter.

I was dead wrong about the pick being a waste. Reese was a key player for the Eagles for seven years, serving as a backup LB and being the leader of the team’s outstanding STs units.

The Eagles didn’t spend a pick on Quentin Gause. They signed him as a UDFA shortly after the draft. If he could turn out to have a career anything like Reese, that would be great for him and the Eagles. Like Reese, I don’t see Gause becoming a starter at the NFL level. He also reminds me of Reese in the fact that he is high character, a good leader and is willing to do the dirty work. Gause could find a home on STs.

Let’s talk about Gause the player. He played OLB at Rutgers. He lined up both on the LOS and back off the ball. Gause isn’t a flashy player or special athlete. He’s one of those guys who does his job without a lot of fanfare. He does a good job of setting the edge on run plays. Gause will extend his arms into the blocker and play with good leverage. He was put out in space in some sets. Gause did a good job of fighting through blocks on WR screens and other quick passes.

Gause was least effective when playing off the line and between the tackles. He is better playing through contact than reading plays and chasing the ball. He is a tough, physical player. Gause is a very good tackler. He wraps up his targets and puts then down forcefully.

I think he is a good fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. Gause can control one gap. He is smart and disciplined. He also is better as a N-S player than an E-W player. I wonder if Schwartz is reminded of a former player of his, LB David Thornton. The Titans signed Thornton as a free agent in 2006. He was their SAM/LLB. He was taller and a better athlete, but overall is similar to Gause.

The downside with Gause is that he’s a limited playmaker. He had 3 sacks, 1 FF and no INTs in college. Gause has the skills of a SAM, but the build of a WLB. He had a good Pro Day, but you don’t always see that athleticism on tape.

The Eagles have moved Gause around to try him at different spots. Despite his lack of ideal size, I think SAM is his best spot. Gause will need to show the Eagles he could be effective at multiple spots. If he were to make the team, he’d be called on to play where needed in a game. I’ll be interested to see if they use him at MLB. I don’t think Gause fits there, but sometimes you have to try things to know for sure. Maybe in this system Gause could fit there.

Gause has an uphill battle to make the team, but he does have a legitimate chance. The Eagles are thin at LB. Gause fits the scheme and he’s a smart, tough player who won’t be overwhelmed by the situation.

Eagles bio

Some highlights from 2015. Gause wears #50 and moves around quite a bit.