Attitude Matters

Posted: November 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 192 Comments »

Jalen Mills is delusional. He thinks he is a combination of Deion Sanders, Darrelle Revis and Superman, but only better. He breaks up a pass. We see the finger wag. The receiver drops the ball. We see the finger wag.

Mills is convinced he is responsible for everything good that happens and he won’t acknowledge things that went wrong. Good CBs need a short memory and his memory seems to be as short as it gets.

Jim Schwartz could see Mills attitude right away last year. That helped Schwartz fall in love with him. Schwartz doesn’t want corners who hope to do well. He wants corners that think they can shut down anyone on Earth and do it with ease. Schwartz loves players that are confident and aggressive. That’s why he hated Eric Rowe.

You can pull up a scouting report and see that Rowe had the right size, length, speed and agility numbers to be a good starting corner. You can see some clips from college where he looked really good. But Schwartz saw up close and personal that Rowe didn’t have attitude. He didn’t believe in himself. He didn’t have the finger wag.

Rowe “picked off” Christian Hackenberg in the 2016 preseason finale. Actually, he was out of bounds, but he still caught the pass. Rowe kept that ball. As a trophy. This was a guy who was genuinely thrilled to almost come up with an INT off a crappy rookie QB in the preseason finale. That would make sense if Rowe was a rookie himself, but he was a second year player. Rowe battled against Megatron on national TV as a rookie. How could he celebrate the almost pick like that?

Mills struggled as a rookie, but has made great strides this year. He will never be anything close to a shutdown corner, but he is showing that he could end up being a quality starter.

https://twitter.com/Eagles/status/925716784698753025

Mills has played in all eight games this year. He has 10 pass breakups and 3 INTs. He has 33 solo tackles and a TFL.

Rowe has played in 28 career games. He has 50 solo tackles, 12 PBUs and 2 INTs.

A lot of people were very upset with the Eagles and Schwartz when Rowe was dealt. Schwartz gave Rowe all spring and summer to show him something. That never happened. Never came close. Schwartz knew it wasn’t going to happen so he was ready to cut bait and move on. The Eagles dealt Rowe and Mills got a lot of his playing time.

You obviously want really talented players, but at the very least, you want guys that play the way you want. Mills plays the way Schwartz wants. He is cocky, aggressive and willing to take chances. I don’t know what the future holds for Mills with Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in the mix, but I can tell you that Mills won’t be giving anyone his job. He will fight like heck to stay on the field and it won’t shock me if he does.

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Doug Pederson has emphasized competition all year long. This could be players on the team competing in weightlifting or in a practice drill. This could also be players battling for playing time.

Constantly competing has brought out the best in many players and the team as a whole.

This mentality will be important as Jay Ajayi tries to fit in on the field and in the locker room. He is talented and will be taking someone’s carries. Someone won’t be happy about that. Duce Staley and Pederson will share the message that the best players will play. This won’t be about draft status or salary. If you’re good, you play. If someone is better than you, they play.

It is easy to say this, but getting players to buy in is the challenge. Pederson has been preaching it all year so that will give his message credence and it won’t come across as random coachspeak.

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The only thing keeping Nate Sudfeld from the Hall of Fame is Carson Wentz.

I hate losing Hamilton, but the Eagles had 6 DTs and someone had to go. They love Destiny Vaeao and still have high hopes for Elijah Qualls. That made Hamilton the odd man out. Personally, I like Hamilton better than Qualls. Time will tell us which one is the better player.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this. Trevor Siemian was really struggling so you can argue that facing him would have been better. At the same time, Osweiler is not a good QB. And he’s a huge target for the pass rush to go after. Sunday will be interesting.

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More on Ajayi

Posted: November 1st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 182 Comments »

I went back and watched Jay Ajayi play against the Falcons (26-130) and the Ravens (13-23) to get a better feel for him. I came away very impressed.

Ajayi is strong enough to break tackles and not go down on first contact. He’s also elusive enough to make defenders miss. That combination makes him a dangerous runner. LeGarrette Blount can run guys over, but he can’t do this.

That ability to bounce something wide and then burst up the field makes Ajayi unique for such a powerful runner. Go back and re-watch some Eagles run plays from this year. You will see times when there are holes. Blount is slow to get through them. Clement doesn’t always show the vision to find them. Smallwood just doesn’t seem to be on the field enough to take advantage of them.

Ajayi has pretty good vision. He is physically gifted. He is tough and durable. He should be an excellent addition to the run offense. Here are some more runs you just aren’t seeing from Eagles RBs this year.

What about pass protection?

https://twitter.com/BaldyNFL/status/925384784603418625

Clearly, the ability is there. He must be more consistent.

So what do you do with the RBs right now?

It could be Wendell Smallwood that is sitting. Blount will play. Ajayi will play. Kenjon Barner is the team’s punt returner and is among league leaders. The coaches seem to like Corey Clement. Smallwood could be the guy on the outside.

He didn’t play much last week. I don’t know if he was still hurting and the coaches were just saving him or if they have just lost some faith in him. Smallwood is the best pass catcher of any of the backs and can be a valuable asset to this offense. This isn’t about talent. This is either health or something with the coaches. We’ll get a better feel on Sunday when we see who is active and who isn’t.

You could try to keep all five RBs active. You know these guys will be sitting.

Steven Means
Taylor Hart
Justin Hamilton
Elijah Qualls
Shelton Gibson
Ronald Darby

Can you find one more guy to sit? LB Nate Gerry maybe. My guess is one of the RBs will be joining that list. We’ll find out on Sunday.

One of the most important things about Ajayi is here. Big play potential.

This is a guy you want on the field and this is someone you want getting touches.

Good move, Howie.

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Eagles Add Ajayi

Posted: October 31st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 187 Comments »

The Eagles made a deal on Tuesday.

I like it.

The Eagles ground game was good, but needed to be better. Ajayi is the type of runner the team needed, someone with a good combination of power and speed. Blount is powerful, but slow. Ajayi can give you more explosive runs than him.

There are risks involved. First, chemistry. The Eagles have been a very tight team this year, with seemingly every player on the roster contributing in some way. Any time you bring in an outsider, there is a risk of affecting the chemistry in the locker room.

Adding Ajayi to the RB group makes the team better, but he will affect the roster and how the RBs are used. You can bet the coaches will talk to the players to try to smooth things over and to keep everyone happy. The team is winning and that generally goes a long way to keeping smiles on everyone’s face. Still, we can’t be naive and say we know things will be all hunky dory.

Ajayi is a good player. Teams don’t let go of good players unless there are some less than ideal reasons. Coach Adam Gase was not happy with Ajayi, on or off the field. It sounds like he didn’t like his running style (going for too many home run plays) and wasn’t thrilled with his attitude and work ethic off the field. One writer in Miami said Ajayi would complain about his number of carries even after a win.

The Eagles know that Ajayi is available for a reason. They are comfortable with the risk, likely based on the fact the Eagles have such a tight locker room and such strong player leadership. Miami has been a dysfunctional organization for a while.

Ajayi is young (24) and cheap. He’s on his rookie deal, with a year left on that. You do hate giving up a 4th round pick, but that was going to be a pick at the bottom of the round so that takes some of the sting away. And you do have to roll the dice a little. This team is playing beyond our expectations. You would hate to get to the postseason only to be held back by a struggling running game because you didn’t want to pony up a late 4th in October.

I like Ajayi because I like physical runners. They tend to succeed in the postseason. Blount isn’t a guy I want getting 20 touches on a regular basis and I don’t trust Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement right now in more of a heavy role. Ajayi is also a better pass blocker than the other RBs. Don’t overlook the importance of that with the way teams have been blitzing the Eagles recently.

While there is some risk, I like the move.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/925402400889774080

We know the Eagles are a more talented team after adding Ajayi.

Time will tell if the Eagles are a better team.

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Wild Monday

Posted: October 31st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 214 Comments »

Normally the focus on Monday is reflecting on Sunday’s game. That’s not the case today.

The strangest news to me was the report that the Eagles showed some interest in trading for Calvin Johnson, the retired superstar receiver from the Lions. There were some odd rumors about this on Sunday, but they didn’t come from credible sources. That changed tonight. This seems like a really odd move for the Eagles to look into, if it is true. We still don’t know that for a fact.

Johnson is two years younger than Larry Fitzgerald, who remains a pretty darn good player. Johnson hasn’t played since 2015, but you have to think an athlete of his caliber stays in pretty good shape. It would be fun to see Carson Wentz get another weapon, even if that isn’t the top need for the Eagles right now.

I’m not going to cover this much because it seems like such a crazy idea. We’ll see if anything comes of this.

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There is a lot of speculation about the Eagles having interest in RB Frank Gore.

I have very mixed feelings on this. Gore is one of my all-time favorite non-Eagles. I love the physicality of his running, plus the fact he is such a smart player. I would love to see him in this offense.

At the same time, he’s 34 and averaging 3.7 yards per carry. To be fair, that average is driven down by one game (25-57 vs CLE), but he’s clearly a declining player. How much is left in the tank? If the Colts cut him, I’d be all over bringing him in, but a trade? I’m not so sure. At most, I’m giving up a future late-rounder.

The Eagles run game was at its best in 2016 when Ryan Mathews ran hard and broke tackles. It has been most effective this year with LeGarrette Blount doing the same thing. The difference is that he doesn’t have Mathews speed. Gore doesn’t either, but he is faster than Blount.

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The Eagles lost one target when Houston traded LT Duane Brown to Seattle. The price was steep…a 2nd, a 5th and a starting CB. Clearly that is a situation the Eagles were not involved with. That is way out of their price range. Seattle had one of the worst O-lines in the league and was desperate. The Eagles are interested in improving at OT if possible, but have one very good starter and one young player they consider a solid starter.

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You can bet the Eagles are talking to all kinds of teams about many different players. There aren’t a lot of solid rumors right now, but most experts think the Eagles will make a lot of calls to see who is available. Howie Roseman loves to make trades, plus the team is 7-1. If you can upgrade the roster to help bolster it for an extended playoff run, go do it.

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I don’t want to get into the legal side of this. That’s way over my head. Go check out Andrew Brandt’s Twitter feed for good info.

This would mean Elliott would miss the first Eagles-Cowboys game. I have mixed feelings about that. It does make it easier to beat them, which is always nice, but part of me would like to see the Eagles tested down the stretch. This team needs to be pushed to get ready for the postseason.

I’m not getting on a moral high-horse about the situation because there are so many questions about what actually happened, but what I’ve heard about Elliott behind the scenes and what we know publicly doesn’t make him seem like a person who deserves much sympathy even if the process was flawed.

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The Eagles host the Broncos on Sunday. Denver lost to KC 29-19 on MNF and did not look good on offense.

They do have the #1 defense in the league (yards). Even when you beat them, it isn’t easy. That D is still a juggernaut. The offense is just a mess right now. It wouldn’t shock me if they made a QB change before Sunday.

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This Year

Posted: October 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 233 Comments »

Back in 1994 the Eagles got off to a 7-2 start and looked like the best team in the NFL. They had dominated the Niners in SF, winning 40-8. That is still one of the best regular season wins in team history. The Eagles had won shootouts. They had won defensive struggles. They could seemingly do it all.

Veteran QB Randall Cunningham was healthy and getting the ball to Fred Barnett. Herschel Walker and Charlie Garner were a heck of a 1-2 punch at RB. Andy Harmon and William Fuller were studs on the DL. Bill Romanowski, Byron Evans and William Thomas were arguably the best LB corps in the league. And some guy named Eric Allen was still a shutdown corner.

As much as I loved that 7-2 start, it was a bit of a mirage. Coach Rich Kotite and Cunningham didn’t see eye to eye and weren’t on the same page. The O-line was up and down. Depth was an issue all over. Byron Evans got hurt in Week 10 and the Eagles never won a game without him. They finished 7-9. Garner got banged up and missed time down the stretch.

While the team had a lot of interesting characters, it didn’t have good character overall. The Eagles were a team in transition. Gang Green was all but gone and there was a wave of new faces on the team. Trying to get instant chemistry was challenging. Things were great when the team was playing well and winning, but that didn’t last when adversity came calling.

The team had enough talent to stay competitive, but they could not win. It still blows my mind that a 7-2 team finished 7-9. That just doesn’t seem possible.

The current Eagles are off to a 7-1 start. Is there any chance this is a mirage?

I really don’t think so. This team is very different from the 1994 bunch in a lot of ways. The two things that stand out are the head coach and the QB. Kotite had issues with his players for years. Pederson is tight with his team and has done a great job of getting everyone to buy in and play as one.

As for the QBs, Cunningham was somewhat of a head case by this point. He had gotten hurt or benched for each of the past three seasons. He got benched in ’94. He threw 16 TDs for the entire season (14 starts). Carson Wentz already has 19 TDs in just eight starts. He is the unquestioned leader of the Eagles and has a great relationship with Pederson.

I think what this team is doing is sustainable.

There have been a ton of injuries this year, but this team has overcome each one of them so far. There have been road games and short weeks. The team has handled all of that with no issues. There is no reason to think this team has peaked.

I bring all of this up because the Eagles have to ask some tough questions in the next day or two. Does the front office believe this is truly a Super Bowl contender? If so, how aggressive are they willing to be in regard to trades?

The Eagles 7-1 record is the best in the league, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best team right now or that they will be in the Super Bowl. At the beginning of the season, I thought the Eagles were a year away from being serious contenders. Clearly the Eagles are ahead of the schedule that I expected. What does management think?

Glazer is one of the most connected media guys in the league. If he says it, you can basically take it to the bank.

The Eagles tried to deal for WR help last year, but couldn’t work anything out. That team was middle of the pack. Howie Roseman loves to wheel and deal so it makes sense that he will work the phones. At the same time, he is going to be a smart shopper.

The Eagles have a second year QB at the heart of the franchise. As much as they want to win this year, they also have to keep an eye on the future. Trading away a 7th round pick for a veteran for half a season might make some sense. At the same time, Jalen Mills was a 7th round pick. You have to  be careful what you do with your resources, even those that don’t seem crucial. With Wentz at QB, the Eagles should be contenders for a while.

I do think the Eagles need OT help. I don’t mean a starting LT. I’m talking about depth. If anything happened to Big V or Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo would replace them. That’s a scary thought right now. Seumalo isn’t playing with a lot of confidence and is erratic. I don’t like him on the field as a jumbo TE. I would be nervous as heck about him at OT.

LB is trickier. The Eagles are set in the Nickel with Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks. Joe Walker plays MLB in the base sets. Walker has not been impressive. He’s not a mess, but just isn’t doing much. The Eagles could put Najee Goode in at MLB in base sets. I think they are hoping that Walker will improve as he plays more, which is possible. I would love to add a veteran MLB if the situation was right.

RB is the other position where you wonder about a move. The Eagles are okay there, but could be better. Losing Darren Sproles definitely hurt. Wendell Smallwood has been banged up this year and didn’t play much on Sunday. If he’s healthy, you probably don’t need to make a move, but the Eagles need someone to get regular carries besides LeGarrette Blount. You need some speed to mix with his power.

One of the issues with making a move at RB is…what do you do with the current guys? I don’t mean to overrate them as players, but there is good chemistry with the group. They don’t complain about touches or snaps. If you bring in a proven veteran, you need a good plan for what happens with the RBs on the roster and how the group is used in games.

I’m sure Howie will be making a ton of calls. He will want to know who is available and what his options are. If he can improve this team and the price is right, expect him to make a move. The price has to be right, though.

Don’t expect this to be a big deal for a star player. The NFL doesn’t work like that.

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It is a shame the trade deadline is in October. It would be great if it was closer to Thanksgiving, so teams could have a longer look at their own players. That would let some know they needed to make trades to add talent and others to make trades because they are no longer contending or a young guy has taken a job and made a veteran expendable.

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