Posted: March 9th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »
Let’s review some happenings.
You’ve gotta love FakeWIPCaller.
Honestly, none of these reports should affect the Eagles in a major way. I’ve already written that Michael Johnson didn’t make sense as a target. He’s more of a 4-3 guy than a 3-4 guy and is better vs the run than as a pass rusher. Handing him big money would be awkward.
Griffen had too many unknowns for the Eagles to pay him big money. The Vikings know him and he’s a proven 4-3 commodity. Smart move to keep him.
I’m sure the Eagles have feelers out with Byrd, but aren’t interested in being part of bidding war.
The reports continue that the Eagles are heavily interested in Mike Mitchell, the Safety from the Carolina Panthers. This infuriates some of you because someone (probably PFF) has him missing the most tackles of anyone in the NFL. There is also the question of whether Mitchell is a one-year wonder that would be free agency fool’s gold.
Mitchell spent 4 years in Oakland and didn’t do anything. Well, he wasn’t a starter. Mitchell only started 9 games in that period, and never more than 4 in one season. That was a dysfunctional defense. Mitchell then signed with the Panthers, got on the field (14 starts) and posted some really impressive numbers. He is a one-year wonder. The question is why he didn’t play in Oakland. If the Eagles are showing heavy interest, they must feel comfortable that sitting in Oakland was a weird situation and not as much a reflection of Mitchell, his talent and his work ethic.
Before anyone goes too nuts…understand that the only news we have right now are leaked reports from agents. The Eagles have talked to his agent, but that doesn’t mean it is a complete lock that they will go after Mitchell on Tuesday. The Eagles could be focused on someone else and that interest is simply remaining silent. We have to wait and see.
I need to watch a couple of games tonight and do more detailed research on Mitchell. I didn’t see missed tackles as a major issue when I studied him the other day, but that’s definitely something to focus on tonight. That said…leading the league in missed tackles is an awkward stat. If you’re truly a bad player, you get benched after too many missed tackles. Or you could be like Jairus Byrd and be a very efficient tackler, but just limit how many times you actually attempt to make tackles.
Mitchell showed playmaking ability in 2013. Safeties rarely have 4 INTs and 4 sacks in a season. Dawk never did. That really is an impressive combo. Now understand those stats in context. Mitchell played on a very good defense. Not only was there talent around him, but he was given the chance to make plays. Sean McDermott learned how to creatively use a S from his time with Jim Johnson. You can’t count on Mitchell to post those numbers on any team or in any scheme. But Mitchell did have to make those plays. How many times over the years have we seen a player drop an INT or whiff on a sack attempt? Too much. Mitchell was put in position to make plays and he did. He is a physically gifted player with solid size (6-0, 210) and athletic ability.
Mitchell would be an upgrade for the Eagles. That’s enough for me to have interest in him.
One other thing has to be understood. The Eagles would not go sign him and then say…that’s it. Safety is solved for the next 5 years. They could still bring back Nate Allen. They could add another free agent. They could still spend a high pick on a Safety in the draft. And Earl Wolff would still be in the mix. Mitchell would be the first move in trying to rebuild a position from the ground up.
Let’s be patient and see how things play out. There is no player the Eagles absolutely must go get in this free agent class. There is no player that I’m desperate for the team to avoid.
This should be one interesting week.
Posted: March 8th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 65 Comments »
I’ve talked a lot about player value and not wanting to throw huge money at some players that I don’t think are worth it. I’ve made the point that the Eagles threw big money at Nnamdi Asomugha, but that didn’t solve the CB problem. We all thought it did, but the results were highly disappointing.
Some of you have taken this to mean that I’m against the Eagles spending big money on a player. That is not the case.
I fully acknowledge that you have to overpay for most players in free agency. That’s just how things work. I also understand that top flight players are going to cost a lot of money. The point I’ve tried to make is that you need to spend wisely. If you think a player is a slam dunk fit, go pay huge money for him. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the top free agent at a certain position is definitely worth big money.
I agree with many of you that the Eagles should be a championship contender and that they need to make aggressive moves to help push the team to the next level. That doesn’t mean going after free agents at a position of need no matter what. I happen to believe that the best teams are choosy. They are very specific about which players they want to draft and/or sign.
You must find the right guys, either in terms of scheme or team.
Football is the ultimate team game. You need the pieces to fit together on the field and in the locker room. The 2011 team underachieved because the pieces didn’t fit together well on the field or in the locker room. The 2013 overachieved because the team fit well in both areas. The challenge now is to upgrade the talent, while finding the right kind of guys.
That is especially true with Chip Kelly running the show. He’s not looking for choirboys, but is looking for players that will buy in to his ideas 100 percent. He wants players that will totally commit to his style of football. That isn’t just on the field, but lifestyle, conditioning and weight training. Just because a player is a good S or good OLB, doesn’t mean he will be Kelly’s kind of guy.
The Eagles have detailed reports on free agent prospects, as players and people. They made good choices last year, but that was easier since they went for mid-level players and not high-priced guys. Star players tend to have more of an ego and sense of entitlement, which can make them tricky to deal with. I’m not against the Eagles taking chances on a player in free agency, but I do believe they need to be careful.
The Eagles have a good thing going. The team is on the rise. There is talent on the field, but also a good vibe to the team. It is important for Howie and Chip to make the right moves this offseason to keep the team trending upward and becoming a true Super Bowl contender.
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Here is an interesting PE.com video with Greg Cosell and the legendary Bo Wulf breaking down the top pass rushers available in free agency.
The frustrating thing about this group of players is that most of them are either 4-3 DEs or guys that aren’t great pass rushers. Cosell makes the comment that “this guy isn’t a pure pass rusher” or “he’s a solid player” about several of the guys. That’s fine, but it isn’t what the Eagles need. They need a pass rusher with some explosive ability.
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Now for some rumors…
Mitchell should be a consideration.
Johnson shouldn’t. He isn’t the pass rusher the Eagles need.
Posted: March 7th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 99 Comments »
A few of you have talked about me comparing the free agent targets to some existing Eagles to provide some perspective on the situation. That’s an excellent idea so let’s do it.
For one of the Saints games I studied to see Malcolm Jenkins I used the wildcard game against the Eagles. That allowed me to see Jenkins and Nate Allen. There is no question that Jenkins is substantially better. And so are TJ Ward and Jairus Byrd, as you would expect. Allen does some things well, but his tackling is mediocre. If he were a top ballhawk, this might be okay. Allen does have good ball skills, but lacks the instincts and athleticism to make many plays in the passing game.
The x-factor with Allen is whether he’ll get better in 2014. Some of you will dismiss this idea in about .1 seconds. I get that mentality, but you have to remember that Allen made big strides from 2012 to 2013. His tackling went from very bad to mediocre. That is a jump. He was benched late in 2012 and I’m sure confidence had to be an issue for him heading into last season.
Allen finished 3rd on the team in tackles in 2013. He had an INT, a sack, a FF, 6 PDs and 2 TFLs. Those aren’t impressive numbers, but they are a step up from 2012, when he barely made any plays.
I think bringing Nate back makes sense and would be a smart move. Sign him for a couple of years and let him fight for a spot. Hopefully he’d be competing with Earl Wolff, a free agent signing and a draft pick. That’s the kind of competition the Eagles need at Safety. We’re not talking about giving Nate much money. If he is better and earns playing time, great. If not, cut him.
I have not watched Wolff since the season ended. He showed enough to make me think he can be a solid starter in the future, but you certainly can’t count on him being a starter right away. He deserves a chance to fight for a spot, but isn’t going to be given a job.
Let me be clear in reference to the other free agents I reviewed. Those guys would all be major upgrades for the Eagles. The Safety position last year was the weakest part of the whole team. The reason I didn’t write “the Eagles must get these guys!!!” is because I don’t know if they will be worth handing huge deals to. The Eagles could go sign both of them and instantly have a terrific pair of Safeties, but they’d also have about $20M invested in that position. Most teams don’t want to spend that kind of money at Safety.
The reason I like Malcolm Jenkins as a target for the Eagles is because of fit and value. Jenkins isn’t the kind of playmaker that Byrd is or the kind of hitter that Ward is. Teams looking for those type of Safeties will focus on Byrd and Ward. The Eagles may want a ballhawk. If so, Byrd will be the top target. Jenkins isn’t the same level of player, but he also won’t cost as much money. His skill set fits what the Eagles want to do on defense. Many free agent busts are due to players not fitting the new scheme.
The goal is for the Eagles to get better at Safety. It would be great to land an impact type of player, but it isn’t as simple as paying Byrd big money and instantly getting great play. Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t solve our CB problems did he? Look at the Panthers and S Mike Mitchell. He was an afterthought last March, but became a terrific player for Carolina. He fit their scheme and played the best football of his life. It also helped quite a bit that he had the right players around him.
These are all talented players who could help the defense. I prefer to focus on value since the top guys aren’t perfect fits, but the Eagles might covet Byrd’s ball skills and feel that he’s the kind of guy you adjust to. I have my doubts on Ward as a target, but I could be dead wrong. Starting next week, we’ll hopefully get some clues as to what the Eagles want at Safety. I won’t be bothered if they go for any of them.
Posted: March 7th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 78 Comments »
I have a few guys to talk about so I’ll make these write-ups a bit shorter.
Could be a great fit for the Eagles. Jenkins won’t command mega-bucks. He is a good player and has the size and versatility that I think will attract Chip Kelly and Bill Davis.
Jenkins was used all over the field by the Saints. He played centerfield, in the box, in the slot and even some outside CB. You have to love the fact you can put him in these roles and he’s talented enough to get the job done. The downside…there is nothing great about Jenkins. He lacks the pop of TJ Ward as a hitter. He lacks the ball skills of Jairus Byrd.
Jenkins is a solid hitter and tackler. He’s aggressive and will hit runners/receivers. He takes good angles to the ball. Jenkins looks comfortable playing in traffic or out in space. There were a couple of plays where he made tackles downfield that prevented TDs. This is the most under-appreciated role a Safety plays. Even if you get the guy down at the 1-yard line, make the offense earn the TD.
In the first Carolina game, Jenkins lined up at CB on a play inside the 10-yard line. He pressed and did a solid job. He regularly played in the slot. Eagles coaches could really value that. Brandon Boykin didn’t have a true backup last year. No one was a good slot guy other than him. That’s why you saw Patrick Chung forced into action there a couple of times.
Jenkins is a good leader. The Saints developed a pair of young Safeties last year. That makes him expendable, but you can bet he helped those players develop. The Eagles have 2nd year players in Earl Wolff and Keelan Johnson. They are basically a lock to draft at least one Safety this spring. Jenkins could help bring those players along. Jenkins played on good teams in New Orleans and back at Ohio State. I think he would fit in well with Kelly and the program he’s developing in Philly.
Mitchell was a 2nd round pick of the Raiders back in 2009. The pick was so unexpected that Mike Mayock basically said “Who?” Mitchell had a great Pro Day workout and a couple of teams loved his athletic ability. The Raiders were the first to pull the trigger. Mitchell had a non-descript career there, but had a breakout year for Carolina in 2013.
4 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 FFs, 9 PDs
Those are elite numbers. But the game tape doesn’t show Mitchell to be an elite player. Good. Talented. Not elite. Last year was a bit of an anomaly. The Panthers had a great season on defense and Mitchell posted great numbers. The team who signs him can’t count on that production.
Mitchell played deep Safety a lot for Carolina. He has pretty good range. He’s got some pop as a hitter, but isn’t an impact hitter. Solid tackler. He will come down aggressively to help vs the run. Showed okay man cover skills when going up against TEs.
I liked what I saw from Mitchell and have definite interest, but he does need the right pieces around him. If Carolina offers him decent money, he’d be wise to stay there. He’s clearly a great fit for them.
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DE Michael Johnson – Many ask about him. Johnson is a better run defender than pass rusher. I’m sure the Eagles love his length, but I see a 4-3 DE and not a 3-4 OLB.
DE Everson Griffen – Only a backup in MIN so I need to watch him more, but he would be risky. Griffen would be new to the team, the scheme, the role of LB and being a starter. That’s a lot of change. Can you pay that guy big bucks? Too much risk for me. I would have interest in him if the price were right, but I’ve got a feeling a 4-3 team will offer him good money.
Posted: March 6th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 18 Comments »
In the last few days I’ve written my scouting reports on some free agent prospects. Remember that these are just my opinions. Scouting players isn’t a black and white situation. I don’t know what the Eagles think of these players.
When I was trained by a scout years ago, the most critical piece of advice he gave me was “write what you see”. So that’s what I do. I watch the players in several games and write down the specific details of what I see the players do, good or bad. I go into each game with an open mind and not pre-conceived notions. I have no agenda on whether to write a glowing review or a less thrilled one. Write what you see.
You can read other opinions on free agent prospects. Some will differ from mine. That’s fine. I might watch a play and come away with one take while someone else watches the same play and has a different read. You just have to figure out who to trust. Obviously you can trust me. The fact that my top free agents are all named Tommy or went to Appalachian State University is merely coincidence. Oh, and don’t trust that awful Jimmy Bama.
When I do read opinions from people I respect that differ from mine, my first thought is “What did they see that I didn’t?” I might go back and watch some more tape to just make sure I didn’t miss something. You never know when you saw a player have a bad game that’s an anomaly or if he struggled due to an injury or something like that.
Enough talking. I’ve got more free agents to go study.
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Sheil Kapadia, who you can trust, wrote about some non-Orakpo/Worilds OLB targets the Eagles could look at. Maybe the most interesting player is…
Everson Griffen, Vikings (26) - A fourth-round pick in 2010, Griffen has never played more than 60.1 percent of his team’s snaps in a single season, per Pro Football Focus. But he was a productive pass-rusher last year and has 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
The question with Griffen is whether teams view him as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. Per ESPN 1500 in Minnesota, he might prefer the former:
That’s because Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick in 2010 who is due to hit the free-agent market this offseason, would probably be more likely to return to the Vikings if they go to a 3-4. He’d also become a better player.
Griffen’s eyes lit up last summer when he was asked about getting the opportunity to rush the passer from outside linebacker. Griffen was asked to play some linebacker in 2012 for the Vikings but he clearly wasn’t comfortable doing it in a 4-3. It would be a different story if he was standing up and rushing the passer.
In a PhiladelphiaEagles.com video, Greg Cosell of NFL Films said he thought Griffen had the athleticism to play in a 3-4.
At 6-3, 273, Griffen has good size, and he is a young, ascending player. Given the market, he’ll probably have his fair share of suitors. But if the Eagles want to make a splash, he could be someone they look at.