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 »


Scouting Talk

Posted: May 22nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

March and April are the months when NFL teams turn over their rosters, signing free agents, making trades and loading up on rookie talent. May is different. That’s when NFL teams make changes to their scouting department.

Scouts have contracts that run through the end of the draft. So when the draft is over, there are changes.

The Eagles announced some changes on Monday.

• Andy Weidl named Director of Player Personnel

• Alan Wolking named Assistant Director of College Scouting

• Shawn Heinlen hired as Southwest Area Scout

• Patrick Stewart hired as National Scout

• Ryan Myers named West Coast Area Scout

• Jim Ward named Northeast Area Scout

• Casey Weidl named Player Personnel Coordinator

• Lee DiValerio hired as Scouting Assistant

Weidl came over to the Eagles with Joe Douglas. He is highly regarded around the league and the Eagles want to keep him happy. There is no salary cap for scouts so the Eagles promote the guys they like and give them more money to stick around.

Wolking has been with the Eagles since 2011. He’s getting a promotion from area scout to more of a leadership role. Mike Bradway had this role the last couple of years, but was recently hired away by the Chiefs.

Heinlen is an outsider joining the staff.

There is real value in having a mixture of young guys and veteran scouts. Heinlen obviously has a ton of experience.

Stewart is another outsider joining the Eagles.

Stewart joins the Eagles after 11 seasons with the New England Patriots. He was originally hired by New England as a Scouting Assistant in 2007 and went on to serve as both an Area Scout (2009, 2013-17) and Pro Scout (2010-12). The Patriots won two Super Bowls (XLIX and LI) during Stewart’s tenure with the team. Prior to beginning his career with the Patriots, Stewart served as the Assistant Director of Football Operations at Temple University in 2006.

Daniel Jeremiah talks about the Eagles having the best scouting department in the NFL. That starts at the top with Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl, but includes national and area scouts as well. This is a deep, talented scouting department. That’s critical for keeping the roster stocked with cheap, young talent.

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Fran Duffy wrote an excellent piece last summer for PE.com on what goes on in the world of scouting.

The end of the draft doesn’t mean that college scouts can put their feet up either. Evaluations on the next group of prospects have already begun. Shortly after the draft, meetings are held by the two main scouting services around the NFL, BLESTO and National Football Scouting. Each team has one scouting assistant assigned to either service, and the pool of scouts work collectively to gather as much information as possible on the upcoming class in the months leading up to those meetings. Early “grades” are created by these services and distributed to all of the participating organizations, and help serve as an early baseline to help give personnel people around the league a snapshot of the upcoming class. These grades from the services are far from final for most scouting departments, however.

“After those meetings, we earmark the players who are most intriguing to us,” said Anthony Patch, the Eagles’ senior director of college scouting. “The service is invaluable, but that’s just the beginning. We want to get eyeballs on the players for ourselves, so we make our lists and identify the prospects who are a priority for us in terms of our evaluations heading into the fall.”

Make sure to check that out.

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I wrote a similar piece back in 2006. I think I originally posted this on the Eagles Message Board. I started writing articles for the official site about a year later and once sent this to Bob Kent as an article idea. I think he had a heart attack when he saw the piece was more than 3,500 words long. That was considered nuts back then. Now, Fran will write pieces that long a few times a year. It really is amazing how football coverage has changed. There is a real market for in-depth material.  Read the rest of this entry »


Luck Matters

Posted: May 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Luck Matters

Robert Kraft knew Bill Belichick was the coach he wanted back in 2000. That hiring laid the foundation for an amazing dynasty.

The other key move was less by design. Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. People love to talk about what a great pick that was, but Scott Pioli, who was the top personnel guy at the time, always points out they wouldn’t have waited that long if they really believed in him. Forget about the Super Bowls and the Hall of Fame, if they thought Brady could be a solid starter he would have been picked in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Give the Patriots credit for making the pick, but there was some luck involved. I don’t mean this as an insult. Luck plays a part in a lot of dynasties.

Think about the Eagles for a second. The whole organization was in on Carson Wentz. That was the QB they wanted and the team paid a premium price to get him. He has turned out to be the player they expected.

The flip side of that is Doug Pederson. He was not the Eagles first choice. They were interested in Ben McAdoo, who was an assistant with the Giants at the time. Luckily, the Giants hired McAdoo and the Eagles had to go back over their options. That led to the hiring of Pederson.

No one involved in the hiring process had any inkling that Pederson was going to become a great coach. Obviously we don’t know how his whole career will play out, but he sure appears to be a great coach. His team was dominant all season long and his offense looks special. Pederson’s offense put up 41 points in the Super Bowl with a backup LT, backup QB and a rookie RB playing a key role. That is pretty amazing.

It is crazy to think about Pederson as compared to the other coaches hired by the Eagles in the last 30 or so years. Go back to 1986. Buddy Ryan had just won the Super Bowl with his 46 Defense and one of the greatest defensive units in NFL history. Ryan was a hot coaching candidate.

Rich Kotite succeeded him and we can laugh at Kotite now, but the Eagles offense did some great things under him in 1990. They finished 3rd in the league in points and yards. Most of the credit for that should go to Randall Cunningham, who had one of the greatest years a QB has ever had. Still, Kotite was part of the success.

Ray Rhodes came on board in 1995. He had just run the Niners defense as they won the Super Bowl. Rhodes had worked for Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren and had a terrific reputation.

Rhodes was fired after the 1998 season and the Eagles wanted Mike Holmgren. They missed out on him, but then interviewed his protege, Andy Reid. He had been the QBs coach for the Packers and did good things with Brett Favre. Reid had a phenomenal interview and blew away Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner. They hired Reid and he had a great run with the Eagles. While Reid wasn’t the team’s first choice, there was some buzz because of what he did with the Packers and the stories that got out about his interview.

There was no buzz on Pederson. None.

He hadn’t won a Super Bowl as a coach. He was the offensive coordinator in KC for three years, but wasn’t the primary play-caller. He had coached QBs for the Eagles prior to that, but hardly had any great success in 2011 or 2012. Just a few years before that, Pederson was coaching high school football.

Pederson did have a long playing career and I think that turned out to be more important than anyone realized. That isn’t to say that all former players make good coaches. Pederson was a career backup so he spent more than a decade on the sideline watching the action and taking it in just like a coach would.

The Eagles took a big chance in hiring Pederson. They needed the right guy after Chip Kelly and Pederson made a lot of sense because he was a bridge to the Andy Reid era and because he had good people skills. The Eagles had no idea Pederson would be such a gifted offensive mind and develop into such a good gameday coach.

Taking a chance on Pederson paid off in the biggest way, winning that elusive first Super Bowl. What seemed like a blah move at the time turned out to be a stroke of genius.

With a little luck mixed in.

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Results Over Credit

Posted: May 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The 2017 Eagles were an incredibly selfless team. No runner had 1,000 yards. No receiver had 1,000 yards. No pass rusher got 10 sacks. The ball was spread around on offense and snaps were spread around on defense. The Eagles really were a team, not just a group of individuals.

I thought about this when I saw a quote on Twitter recently.

Doug Pederson really sets the tone in this regard. He openly acknowledges taking ideas from all over. In the clip below, Pederson talks about the Eagles using a RB technique that Duce Staley got from Chip Kelly.

There is another video where Pederson explains that he adjusted a play based on the fact Sam Bradford preferred the way that Chip Kelly ran that play. When Bradford told Pederson about the different version, Pederson embraced it and the Eagles still do that now.

So many coaches would have been “My way or the highway” with situations like that. Not Doug. He puts his ego aside and genuinely wants whatever is best for the team. I can’t tell you how rare that is.

Look how similar this play from the Super Bowl is to one from Arizona’s 2011 college season.

That isn’t to say Doug got that directly from Arizona, but the idea almost certainly came from some college offense.

Andy Reid ran the West Coast Offense in Philly. He opened some things up with Michael Vick, but it was still very much the WCO. That changed when Reid got to Kansas City, where Doug Pederson was the offensive coordinator. I’d love to know if Reid opened up because of the change in scenery or if Pederson was able to convince him to do that.

I do know that Reid and Pederson embraced ideas from QB Alex Smith’s college days. Smith played for some guy you may have heard of…Urban Meyer. Now KC has one of the most creative offenses in the league. So do the Eagles.

I don’t know if Pederson influenced Reid or vice-versa, but what ever happened, it was a good thing. Reid has had an excellent second act in KC and Pederson is off to an amazing start in Philly. He’s already won a Super Bowl and established himself as one of the most important offensive coaches in the league.

Keeping an open mind has helped Pederson build a great offense. Defenses will adjust, but the beauty of this is that Pederson can import new ideas that will keep his offense fresh and defenses off-balance. They’ll be trying to stop the 2017 Eagles, but facing the 2018 team.

Advantage Eagles.

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One of the reasons Pederson has such a creative offense is that he’s got all kinds of influences.

His first NFL coach was Don Shula. Miami had somewhat of an old school offense and threw the ball downfield. Pederson played for Mike Holmgren, who ran the purest version of the WCO this side of Bill Walsh. Then Pederson played for Reid, who ran a slightly different version of the WCO. Pederson then played for Mike Sherman on his return to Green Bay. Sherman ran the WCO, but his focus was the run game.

Pederson also had some non-NFL influences. He played for the architect of the Run ‘n Shoot.

Buddy Ryan hated that offense and called it the “chuck and duck”. Funny comment, but the offense has been highly influential over the years. Teams now embrace three and four-receiver sets. Teams use some of the passing concepts and option routes that made the Run ‘n Shoot so tough to stop.

You can bet Pederson’s time coaching high school football has also influenced him. Some of the most innovative offenses in football are at the high school level.

Pederson loves good ideas. He doesn’t care where they come from or who gets credit. He just wants the best plays he can find.

That mindset helped the Eagles win it all last year. It will be interesting to see how things play out this year and into the future.

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Insight from Howie

Posted: May 18th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles won the Super Bowl for a lot of reasons. One of them is that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman embraced a new way of doing things. From Sports Science to analytics to an aggressive and creative cap strategy, the Eagles looked for every possible advantage they could, on and off the field.

Howie spoke at the Wharton People Analytics Conference recently. They have posted the 30 minute discussion between he and host Cade Massey.

This is really great. Howie tells some good stories and offers some interesting insight on how the Eagles think.

Don’t watch expecting any amazing moments where Howie gives away the football version of the secret recipe for grandma’s spaghetti sauce. He’s too smart for that. Howie just offered interesting thoughts on how scouting and analytics have come to co-exist and how/why the Eagles do things.

Not every team has such an open mind. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl may have forced some teams to have more of an open mind, but clearly teams like the Giants are still embracing being an old school team. That’s a good thing for the Eagles and not so good for the Giants.

If the Eagles have another big year, watch for even more teams to embrace a new way of doing things.

*****

Interesting stuff here from Louis Riddick on his QB rankings for the NFC East.

1 – Carson Wentz
2 – Alex Smith
3 – Nick Foles
4 – Dak Prescott
5 – Eli Manning

Interesting.

Riddick makes the point that Foles gets that ranking only because he’s with the Eagles. The combination of the scheme, the coaches and the surrounding talent brings out the best in Foles. I think that is a reasonable argument.

It really will be interesting to see how things play out this year. Dak Prescott could bounce back in a major way or struggle even more with pedestrian receivers. Eli has better blocking and more talent to work with, but he’s been mediocre the last five years. Smith is coming off a great season, but there are no guarantees that he will play at the same level on a new team and in a new system.

This could be a wild season for the QBs of the NFC East.

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