LeSean Perspective

Posted: July 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 88 Comments »

LeSean McCoy is a great RB, but an interesting question is whether he will end up being one of the all-time greats. There is no doubting the fact he has unique ability and does special things. Can he produce at a high level for an extended period of time?

This is where the Andy Reid factor comes in. Did he hurt McCoy or help him with the limited carries?

McCoy is about to turn 26. He has 1,149 career carries. Emmitt Smith is one of the biggest workhorse RBs of all time. When he turned 26, Smith already had 1,630 carries, which is almost 500 more than McCoy. Both players had 5 seasons under their belt at this age. It really is amazing to see how they were used.

Smith had his biggest year in 1995, when he was 26.  He ran for 1,773 yards and 25 TDs. But that was the final season when he did anything special. There were a couple of 1,300 yard seasons after that, but Smith only averaged 4.2 yards per carry and scored a total of 24 TDs. Those are certainly good numbers, but nothing like the special ones he put up earlier in his career. The Cowboy offense was in decline. The O-line wasn’t dominant. And Smith had taken a beating early in his career that caught up to him.

There is still plenty of tread on the tire with McCoy. But you can argue that Reid wasted his best years by not feeding him the ball more. We can’t accurately judge the situation until we see how the next few seasons goes. Does McCoy keep his dynamic cutting ability for the next couple of years or the next 5 years? Once that goes, he’s going to have to change the way he runs.

It is good that Chip Kelly arrived when he did. McCoy is at his peak now, in terms of health and experience. Kelly will feed him the ball and McCoy can put up big numbers if he can stay healthy. McCoy in 2013:

314 – 1,607 – 9 – 5.1

McCoy led the NFL with the 1,607 yards. The yards per carry was outstanding. Any time a workhorse runner is above 5 ypc, that is very impressive. It is a bit curious that McCoy “only” scored the 9 TDs. I’m sure he wants that number to go up in 2014.

One interesting difference with Emmitt and McCoy is the offense they played in. Dallas was a running team. Emmitt finished his career with 11 TD catches. He only had 4 TD receptions when he turned 26. McCoy has 10 TD catches already. The number of receptions is similar, but not the way the players were used. Emmitt was strictly there for screens and checkdowns. McCoy is part of the passing game. One of his best highlights in 2013 was beating Ryan Kerrigan down the right sideline for a long catch and run. That was a beautiful pass play.

McCoy has gotten better each year. He works at his game. He is more disciplined in short yardage situations. As a young RB, he would too often look for the big play. He is now disciplined enough to focus on moving the chains with 1 or 2 tough yards. McCoy runs more N-S than he did earlier in his career. He still takes some crazy chances and does unusual things, but that’s part of his game. You can’t expect him to be like every other RB. He’s got a bit of Barry Sanders to him. In order to enjoy the long runs and dynamic plays, you must live with the ones that don’t work out so well.

His non-traditional running style will help McCoy as he gets older. He doesn’t live between the tackles, where a RB can take a real beating. McCoy is a player that is at his best in space. He’s getting hit by 1 or 2 tacklers and often they are glancing blows instead of head-on collisions. That will save some wear and tear.

I’m excited to see how McCoy does in 2014. This could be another big year for him. If he’s able to string together several big years, McCoy could find himself headed to Canton. He’s got the highlights. Now he needs the stats. McCoy has 5,473 career rushing yards. My guess is that he needs something like 12,000 to feel comfortable about a shot at Canton.

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Eagles fans obviously love LeSean McCoy, but do you think he is appreciated across the league as an elite player? I think every person on Earth sees Adrian Peterson as a dominant player and freak of nature. Does the average fan see McCoy as a great RB or just a guy who has some cool highlights?

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Really Big

Posted: July 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 39 Comments »

Chip Kelly loves big players so it should come as no surprise that the Eagles were one of the teams checking out DL LaKendrick Ross for the upcoming NFL Supplemental Draft. Ross is massive at 6-4, 366.

Unfortunately, the most compelling thing about Ross is his size. He played at a school I’d never heard of, Virginia University of Lynchburg. And remember that I’m a guy with VHS game tapes of the Colorado School of Mines. When I haven’t heard of a school…it is small.

I watched a bit of tape on Ross and came away mostly unimpressed. Scouts will tell you that when you study small school games, good prospects should really stick out. Ross was the best player on the field, but not in an overwhelming way. He does fit what the Eagles are looking for. Ross looks most comfortable when reading plays and shedding blocks. He is not an attacking DL.

Ross needs a ton of coaching. He plays with poor pad level and uses sloppy technique. He was able to overwhelm smaller guys in college, but that won’t work at the NFL level. Think of him as a lesser version of Michael Bamiro, if that puts things in perspective. Ross would be a NT candidate for the Eagles on a long term basis, but he needs work.

The Eagles should not spend a pick on Ross. I have no problem with them adding him as a free agent after the Supplemental Draft, but he’s not worth a pick. One interesting question would be who got cut to make room for Ross. DL Frances Mays?

PFT has a couple of details.

BGN as well.

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Pretty crazy to think how much has changed since then.

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Blogging the Boys put together an interesting post that used Bill James ideas for making some predictions on the NFC East. Most of the data favors the other 3 teams and not the Eagles, but that is largely due to the theory that good teams come back to the middle and losing teams move up.

The writer made sure to point out a few times that this was a less than ideal system for evaluating NFL teams. But this is the offseason. You have to be creative to keep the content going. I thought it was an interesting read. Kudos for the idea.

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More Chances for Barwin

Posted: July 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 19 Comments »

Tim McManus wrote a good piece on Connor Barwin and the fact the Eagles might have him rush the QB more in 2014.

Cole dropped 22 percent of the time, which is right near the average for 3-4 linebackers that played a significant number of the snaps last season. Graham was at 21 percent. Barwin, meanwhile, dropped into coverage 42 percent, according to Pro Football Focus – one of the highest rates in the league.

That made the Eagles somewhat predictable.

Ideally, Bill Davis and Chip Kelly would like to have a situation where the offense doesn’t know which OLB is going to rush and which one is going to drop into coverage. In a true fantasy world, you would have both ILBs and OLBs so good at rushing and covering that you could really mix and match them and be extremely creative, while also balanced.

For now, the Eagles would just like to be more balanced. The goal is to keep QBs from making easy pre-snap reads. The 3-4 defense is based on moving parts doing different things. You don’t want defined roles for the players play after play.

Now that Cole and Graham have a year at outside linebacker under their belt, will Barwin be freed up to attack the passer more this season?

“Absolutely,” said OLB coach Bill McGovern. “I think that’s where you hope to see the whole thing start to come a little bit more together…I could put Connor over at Predator, I think I could put BG and Trent over at Jack and they would know what to do. We gave them names, but really it’s a left outside linebacker and a right outside linebacker. That’s what they really are and they can switch it up. Now, when they can start doing the same things all the time and you can bring either one, I think that’s where the whole defense comes together.”

While the Eagles would like to mix things up, they don’t want to do too much of that. Barwin covers the best of the OLBs. Cole is the best pass rusher. Confusing the offense is important, but not at the risk of having players do things they aren’t very good at. Barwin lacks the explosive first step to be a top pass rusher. Cole lacks the instincts to be at his best playing in space.

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H2H update.

Jimmy and I want to do new shows. Scheduling them is tricky because of changes in both our routines. I started a new job back in February and that has really affected me.

The new schedule also has me behind on answering emails. I’m working through them to try and catch up with you guys. My apologies for being so far behind with so many people.

I promise to catch up and I promise that Jimmy and I will do some new shows.

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Is Nick Foles Overrated?

Posted: July 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 117 Comments »

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports recently wrote a piece where he chose an overrated and underrated player for all 32 teams. He chose Nick Foles as his overrated Eagle. Jimmy Bama didn’t like Prisco’s logic and wrote a post about that. Bama and Prisco battled it out for a couple of days on Twitter. I will write about that angle later, but for now I want to get back to the original question…is Foles overrated?

Before we can answer this question we must first address the question of how Foles is rated. I really think that is where the confusion lies.

Let’s look at the Top 8 passer rating’s for a single season.

1 – Aaron Rodgers
2 - Peyton Manning
3 – Nick Foles
4 – Tom Brady
5 – Peyton Manning
6 – Steve Young
7 – Joe Montana
8 – Tom Brady

So…what name on that list looks different than the others?

Those are some of the greatest QBs in NFL history. Foles has never even been a starter on opening day. He doesn’t belong to be considered as a peer to those players…yet. That could change over time, but there are no guarantees. 2013 could prove to be the best season of his career.

I don’t think even the most ardent of Eagles fans sees Foles as belonging on that list. But…his 2013 season is there and that’s what causes the problem. How do you rate a guy who just had one of the best seasons ever?

Honestly, we don’t know what Nick Foles is.

Foles stats and the eye test don’t mesh. Foles certainly looks like a good QB, but he doesn’t do the kind of special things that you expect from a great QB. Then again, the guys on the list weren’t all great from the start. Brady was clutch very early in his career, but he didn’t have a rating of above 100 until his 7th full season as a starter. The same is true for Manning, which actually shocked me. Young was very disappointing in Tampa Bay and got dealt to SF. Rodgers rode the bench for a few years before even getting a chance to play.

Foles is 25 years old. Montana led SF to their first Super Bowl at age 25. We couldn’t very well define Montana in July 1981 since he was a young player with not enough game action under his belt. Let’s see what Foles does this year before we really try to pin him down. Even then, it will take a couple of more seasons to truly know.

Part of being a defined player (whether great or good or average or bad) is that you have a track record people can study and make judgments from. Foles doesn’t have that. The guy has never started more than 8 straight games in the NFL. Let’s give him a chance to play before we figure out what he really is.

Back to Prisco’s point of Foles being overrated. If someone talks about Foles as being a Top QB in the NFL, then yeah…I’d say he’s overrated. I’m sticking with Rodgers, Brees and Manning as the best. Brady seems to be descending. Put Foles in a discussion with Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. That’s where he belongs for now.

If someone says Foles is one of the 10 best QBs in the NFL, I think you can make that argument. That’s reasonable.

I understand where Priso is coming from because there is some hype with Foles that can seem a bit much at times, but I just think you have to say a bit more than he did in throwing a blanket assessment like “Overrated”.

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Pro Football Focus put some numbers together on Foles and the kind of season he had.

Positives

•  Ranked second in the league at +11.2 on passes in the 11-to-20-yard range.
•  Among the league’s best on throws of 30+ yards (+3.3) and 40+ yards (+3.0).
•  Graded at +10.5 on throws between the numbers and +7.3 outside the numbers on the right.
•  Graded at +3.7 with a 131.8 passer rating against the blitz. Those numbers rose to a +7.2grade and 153.5 rating when the blitz didn’t result in pressure.
•  Ranked fourth with a +10.7 grade on drop-backs of 9 or more yards.
•  Ranked fourth on passes lasting at least 3.6 seconds at +9.1.
•  Best routes were the posts (+4.3) and in routes (+3.1).

Negatives

•  Graded at -2.3 on passes in the 21-to-30-yard range.
•  Strugged on passes outside the numbers to the left at -3.5.
•  Graded at -3.5 against blitz pressure.
•  Posted negative grades on passes that lasted up to 2.5 seconds; graded positively on those lasting at least 2.5 seconds.
•  Lowest grade by route was a -0.1 on go routes.

Tendencies

•  Led the league with 92.5% of his drop-backs coming from the shotgun or pistol.
•  8.0% of his passes came on scrambles outside the pocket, above the league average of 5.6%.
•  Threw the highest percentage of passes at 20+ yards (18.9%) and 30+ yard (7.0%).
•  Threw 31.6% of his passes outside the numbers to his right, third-highest in the league.
•  Overall, 54.6% of his passes went outside the numbers, fifth-highest in the league.
•  Dropped back to 9 or more yards on 38.5% of his drop-backs, sixth-highest in the league.
•  26.6% of passes lasted at least 3.6 seconds, fourth-highest in the league.
•  Threw the highest percentage of screens in the league at 17.5% of his total drop-backs.
•  Threw crossing routes on 16.1% of his drop-backs, highest percentage in the league.
•  Threw the lowest percentage of slants in the league at 3.1% 

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Can Nice Guys Finish First?

Posted: July 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

I was looking over the Eagles roster the other day when a weird thought popped in my head…is this the most likable Eagles team? There really are a lot of players that seem like genuinely great guys. I covered the topic in my PE.com column.

I realize that Riley Cooper seems like anything but a great guy based on last summer. I didn’t say every player was likable.

And don’t mistake this to be all about whether guys are criminals or outright bad guys. Dhani Jones was actually a pretty good guy, but he was almost impossible to cheer for. He wore bow ties and tried to talk as if he was a Harvard professor. It felt very contrived and that didn’t sit well with Eagles fans. Freddie Mitchell could be incredibly annoying just about any time he spoke.

Kelly has put together a roster of likable guys.

While that is a good thing, it only works if the players can win. I don’t want a team of choirboys if they lose games and can’t compete for a title. I want the best football team possible. It is great when a team is made up of good guys and wins, but winning is the bottom line.

The Eagles won a weak NFC East last year. Challenging for a title is a whole other level. We’ll see how things go.

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