Senior Bowl Day 1

Posted: January 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

I am in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, hoping to find the Eagles some CBs, some WRs and maybe even an offensive coordinator.

Neither Doug Pederson nor Howie Roseman came down to Mobile. Doug stayed to work on finding an OC and possibly interviewing candidates. Howie might also be involved with that process. Most other GMs are in Mobile so he’s not skipping this casually. There is a reason.

No good rumors on the OC search. We did find out today that Mike Kafka won’t be getting the job.

I don’t see this as a big deal. Kafka is Doug Jr. They both played for Andy Reid in Philly and then coached under him. Kafka might be a good coach, but he’s not going to bring a lot of new ideas to the table.

Hopefully I’ll stumble into a good rumor or two down here.

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Here are my Day 1 practice notes, written from a general perspective. Now let me add some Eagles takes to them.

The top senior CBs are not in Mobile. Guys like Trevon Diggs, Kristian Fulton and Jeff Gladney are sitting the game out. There are still some talented CBs here, but no one that is likely to be in play for pick 21.

I’m focused on finding players that can cover downfield. The Eagles have Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc. They don’t need slot corners.

Dane Jackson from Pitt had a good day and is someone that Jim Schwartz might love. He will hit and tackle. Tough. Competitive. If you put on the Clemson tape, he holds his own against good WRs. I’ll keep a close eye on him.

Troy Pride from Notre Dame looked good. I didn’t see a lot of him, but he flashed. I’ll pay more attention to him on Wednesday.

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The Eagles had scouts talking to a lot of DL on Tuesday after the practice sessions.

DT Benito Jones – Ole Miss
DE Trevis Gipson – Tulsa
DT Robert Windsor – Penn State
DE Jabari Zuniga – Florida
DE Jason Strowbridge – North Carolina
TE Sean McKeon – Michigan

To be fair, the Eagles have had scouts talk to DL each and every year I’ve been coming to Mobile. Don’t read too much into that.

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I’m honestly not sure what to say about the Eagles and receivers. Nelson Agholor is almost certainly gone. Alshon Jeffery could also be gone.

You might be bringing back DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett. DeSean is the only sure thing in that group and he’s coming off injury.

Will the Eagles want speed? Size? Slot guys?

There aren’t a lot of burners in Mobile. There are some good big guys and several good slot guys.

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One possible target at 21 is DT Javon Kinlaw. That dude is a stud. Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson aren’t getting any younger (unless Sports Science has gone big time) and the Eagles could use a young, talented DT. Kinlaw is really good.

Auburn’s Marlon Davidson is another guy I’ve got my eye on.

Neville Gallimore is a 1-gap DT that would make some sense.

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If Big V leaves, the Eagles could have interest in a swing tackle. Matt Peart from UConn has good size and he’s played both sides. He could be a good fit as a backup OT.

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I’ll try to have more on LBs and safeties tomorrow.

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I got to chat with Connor Barwin on the field today. He’s excited about the new role. He and Brent Celek were active in talking to prospects.

I hope these guys prove to be good hires. Definitely the kind of guys you want in your organization.

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Embracing Risk

Posted: January 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Changes are coming. There will be changes to the coaching staff. There will be changes to the roster. There will be changes to the starting lineup.

Not all of these changes will be safe, easy to understand moves. The Eagles are going to have to take some chances. They must embrace risk.

Jason Peters should be out as LT. Is Andre Dillard ready? The only way to find that out is to take a chance on him. You can’t go looking for a Pro Bowl LT to take Peters’ place.

We have no idea what will happen in the secondary. We know Avonte Maddox will be back. We assume Cre’Von LeBlanc will be back. Just about everything else is up in the air. Malcolm Jenkins could be cut or given a raise. Maddox could be the slot or moved to safety. Jalen Mills could be re-signed.

The Eagles have a lot to figure out with their DBs. There is no foolproof plan. They need to make smart decisions, but they also need to be willing to take some chances. Move Maddox to safety. Put LeBlanc in the slot. Bring back Mills and find someone to start opposite of him.

Do not bring back Ronald Darby on a cheap deal and try one more year of him and Mills on the outside. That isn’t working.

Let Nigel Bradham go. I know Jim Schwartz loves his veteran LB, but it is time to move on. You have a pair of young, cheap LBs in Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. Find a new veteran to mix in with them. Bradham isn’t cheap and he’s not been all that good in the last couple of years.

DE is another tricky spot.

Brandon Graham – Derek Barnett
Vinny Curry – Josh Sweat
Genard Avery – Shareef Miller
Joe Ostman – Daeshon Hall

Curry is a free agent. He put up good numbers for the Eagles (5 sacks) and proved to be a solid backup. Do you bring him back? If so, then what is the plan for Avery and Miller, two young players you have mid-round picks invested in?

At a certain point, you have to take chances on young players. The Eagles see these guys every day in practice. They know if the players are developing.

The Eagles have some tough choices here. They didn’t get enough out of Sweat this year. Avery barely played, but Howie Roseman said that move was more about the future. Okay, the future starts in 2020. How much do you count on Avery?

This is where hiring a new DL coach also has to get factored in. Can someone else start to better develop these young players?

The 2020 offseason is going to be very interesting as we see what moves the Eagles make and where they stand pat.

I think they understand the need for change. How much of it will we see and just how much risk will they embrace?

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I can confirm this. I wonder if hiring Celek and Barwin is what Howie meant when he said he had a couple of exciting additions to announce.

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The Big Red Debate

Posted: January 20th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles will not win the Super Bowl this year. So who do you pull for? To me, that’s a no brainer. Big Red. Andy Reid. The man who helped the Eagles go from mediocrity to being an organization that mattered. And still does.

Amazingly, not everyone agrees.

I have posted comments during Chiefs games about how I’m pulling for Big Red to finally get his title. Some people come back at me questioning why I am pulling for Andy.

It seems like the bad feelings stem from the frustration with his inability to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philly while he was here and his stubborn style of coaching (mostly not running the ball enough).

Andy didn’t win the Super Bowl with the Eagles. He got the team to five championship games, but somehow only won one of those games. When he did get to the Super Bowl, the Eagles lost to the Patriots 24-21.

I’m not going to pretend everything went smoothly from 1999-2012. There were ups and downs. There were times when Andy drove us all crazy. His refusal to embrace the running game could be maddening. His decision to draft Freddie Mitchell over other WRs in 2001 was torturous.

There is no reason to go through every decision that was unpopular or incredibly frustrating. Suffice it to say, there were times when Andy could make you want to banish him to ice caverns of Fridgia.

But there was a lot more good than bad. A lot more.

The Eagles went to the playoffs nine times under Reid. They went to five NFC title games. They won five division titles.

Reid developed star players like Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. He gave us LeSean and DeSean. He even coached the immortal Derek Landri.

Beyond winning, Reid created a great atmosphere. He made the Eagles a destination team. Prior to his arrival, players used the Eagles to get more money from other teams. Reid changed that in a major way.

You saw free agents wanting to come to Philly. You saw players wanting to come back (Hugh Douglas, A.J. Feeley). Not many guys ever wanted to leave.

Reid is a brilliant, but flawed coach. He is great with people.

He now has a coaching tree. Doug Pederson and John Harbaugh have won Super Bowls. Ron Rivera got his team to the Super Bowl. Sean McDermott has his team on the rise in a big way.

When I’m down at the Senior Bowl, there is a wave of people that go to see Reid. You’ll see scouts, former assistants, agents, media people…you name it. Andy talks to all of them. And not just a brush off type of hello. He gives them all his time and attention.

Andy Reid has meant a lot to me even though I’ve never met him. I will be pulling for him to win the Super Bowl with all of my heart. It would mean the world to me to see Big Red hoist the Lombardi, just as it did when Reggie held in back in 1996 as part of the Packers.

Andy deserves to win it all. He has helped a lot of players and coaches during his time in the NFL. He’s made the game better. Bill Belichick is a genius, but also can be an annoying blowhard. Andy is Andy. And the NFL is a better place for it.

When asked how he celebrated the big win…

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1219325129152434177

Go Chiefs!!!

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Speaking of the Eagles and coaches.

Okay. So what is going on? I thought Harrell might be the front runner for the job.

The Eagles can talk to a variety of NFL assistants with the break between now and the Super Bowl. They can also talk to people down at the Senior Bowl.

We’ll have to wait for the rumor mill to get going. Right now we don’t know what the team is thinking.

It isn’t a bad thing that we don’t know their plans. We just need them to have a plan.

This is interesting. Berry is a very smart man and he’s worked for a couple of different teams. He’ll have a different outlook than someone who has been in Philly for the past four years.

It would be good to keep Berry around.

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This is kinda funny.

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More on Harrell

Posted: January 19th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

We don’t have any updates on Graham Harrell or the Eagles coaching situations so I thought it might be good to talk some more about Harrell.

We’ll start with Harrell’s background. He played QB for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. That’s where Harrell learned the Air Raid offense and was exposed to Leach’s highly unorthodox style of football. Watch this 60 Minutes segment to get some background on Leach and also to see Harrell in his college days.

Leach is about as far from an NFL coach and NFL mindset as you can get. His offense is based on simplicity. Master a handful of plays instead of having a playbook that is six inches thick and full of thousands of options. Focus on the players, not the X’s and O’s.

Harrell was a three-year starter for Texas Tech. He threw for more than 15,000 yards and had 134 TD passes. He set a handful of NCAA passing records.

Despite his collegiate success, Harrell went undrafted. He wasn’t special physically and the NFL wasn’t impressed by the Air Raid offense. Harrell managed to stay in the NFL from 2010-2013, spending most of his time with the Packers.

Harrell didn’t play much, but that was a valuable time for him. He got to learn the West Coast offense and experience life with pro coaches. Instead of embracing the NFL, Harrell preferred his college offense and that style of play. He hated the WCO verbiage. He thought NFL coaches took a weird pride in making things more complicated than they needed to be.

In 2014 Harrell decided to quit playing football and start coaching it. He was hired by Leach as an assistant at Washington State. Harrell was an offensive analyst in 2014 and became WRs coach in 2015.

Harrell left WSU to become the offensive coordinator at North Texas. UNT was one of the worst offenses in the league prior to Harrell’s arrival. They became one of the most productive offenses in 2017 and 2018.

That success got Harrell the OC job at USC for the 2019 season. The Trojans finished 20th in the nation in yards and 6th in passing yards. That might not sound great, but you need context. USC lost their starting QB in the season opener. The backup got hurt later and the Trojans had to turn to a true freshman. Harrell had all three QBs ready to play and the team had success no matter who was under center. Also take into consideration the fact that the team was learning the Air Raid offense for the first time.

Harrell has had success at multiple college stops. He’s had success with mediocre talent and star players. He knows how to coach.

Is he the right fit for the Eagles? Can he succeed in the NFL? This is a projection and that always makes things more complicated.

Doug Pederson has spent 24 years playing or coaching professional football. He knows the WCO inside-out. He knows NFL offenses inside-out. The Eagles don’t need a veteran coordinator with a strong NFL background. They could choose to go that direction if the right candidate is out there, but they don’t need to find that guy.

It would make a lot of sense to add someone like Harrell. Pederson can’t teach the Air Raid offense. He’s never been part of that scheme or style of play. There is also something to be said for embracing different ideas on terminology and style of play.

When you think about college ideas coming to the NFL, it is easy to flash back to Chip Kelly. His offense was great at first, but struggled as defenses adjusted to it. There are differences in Kelly and this situation. Kelly’s offense was based primarily on the run game and the speed of the offense.

The Air Raid is primarily a passing offense. The goal is to put players in space so they can make plays. It is more like basketball on grass. The offense also uses speed as a way to wear down defenses.

Kliff Kingsbury coached the Arizona Cardinals last year and brought his version of the Air Raid to the NFL. Like Harrell, Kingsbury played for Leach at Texas Tech. The Cardinals were dead last in the NFL in yards and points in 2018. Kingsbury turned things around in his first year.

The Cardinals were 16th in scoring and 21st in yards in 2019. They had a rookie QB, mediocre OL and odd assortment of offensive weapons. Kingsbury was able to get his players to embrace the scheme and play well. As he gets in more talent, that offense should only get better.

When Kelly had his NFL success, the Eagles had a dominant runner (LeSean), an explosive receiver (DeSean), an outstanding TE (Brent Celek) and a dominant OL. He also had Nick Foles playing out of his mind. That success was more on the star players than it was Kelly.

I think the Air Raid can work in the NFL, if mixed with other ideas. A good point of comparison might be the tw0-minute offense that every team runs. Teams run basic plays when they are in hurry-up mode. They rely on players to make plays. The Air Raid has the same principles. Keep it simple. Let players execute.

Clearly you can’t do that 60 plays a game for 16 games a year. But you can mix in those ideas and have them enhance your offense.

One of the big selling points for me is that the Air Raid attack generally brings the best out of WRs. If you think about the biggest weakness of the Eagles offense under Pederson, it has been the WRs. Harrell could help change that.

There would be risk in hiring Harrell. He’s never coached in the NFL. He did play in the league, but coaching is a whole other ball of wax. There could be a tough time mixing in Harrell’s ideas with the Eagles offense. There is also the possibility that Harrell could do a great job. If that happened, would he become a head coaching candidate? You don’t want to avoid good candidates for fear of losing them in the future, but there is something to be said for stability on a coaching staff.

There is no perfect candidate for the Eagles. I would rather see Pederson take a chance on someone like Harrell than an NFL coach. College football is where some of the best coaching gets done and where incredible innovation takes place.

Take a chance on Harrell and see how he could help improve the Eagles offense.

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Coaching News

Posted: January 18th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

We finally got some good nuggets on the Eagles coaching situation on Friday. There were people coming and going, and candidates emerging.

First up, some offensive coordinator news.

If you read this site, you might remember I mentioned Harrell earlier this week.

Graham Harrell – Great background. Played at Texas Tech in the Air Raid offense. Spent time in the NFL as a backup with the Packers. Was a positional assistant at Washington State and then the OC at North Texas, where they had a lot of offensive success. Harrell became the OC for the USC Trojans in 2019. Up and coming coach.

I looked at a list of all college football teams. I went through the teams who had the best offenses and the best coaches. Harrell stood out to me because of his college background, NFL background and track record.

I need to write a lot more about Harrell, but I think he would be a terrific hire. He would bring new ideas and a new set of eyes to the Eagles offense. I think that is just what this team needs.

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I was surprised by this.

This makes me think that word in the coaching community is that the Eagles are leaning heavily toward Harrell. Urban and Engram are not exactly household names. Those guys shouldn’t be turning down interviews for a promotion. The fact they did that has to mean something.

Or I guess they could just love Baltimore crab cakes that much.

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Speaking of surprises.

I’m not shocked, but I am surprised.

To be fair, the Eagles DL wasn’t as good as hoped this year. Injuries were a factor, but we didn’t see young players developing as expected. Josh Sweat was better than his rookie year, but I was still disappointed. Shareef Miller couldn’t get on the field. Derek Barnett flashed, but he needs to be better. Tim Jernigan is maddeningly inconsistent.

For Jim Schwartz’s scheme to thrive, the Eagles DL must be outstanding. Just think back to the playoff game. Seattle had backup OL in there. The Eagles couldn’t take advantage of that.

The Eagles DL wasn’t bad this year, but they didn’t live up to the talent they had.

So who will replace Daniels?

I wonder about this. Burke has more of a LB background. He’s never been a DL coach. Can you really trust him to get the most out of the guys up front?

It doesn’t seem that hard to coach pass rushers, but that is a critical position. Any little nuance that can help them get an advantage is important.

Jim Schwartz thinks highly of Burke. This is the third time they’ve worked together (also the Titans and Lions). I’m glad for Burke to be on the staff because Schwartz values his input and ideas. You don’t have him coach the DL unless you think he’s the best man for the job.

We’ll see what happens.

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Interesting.

Former players do not always work out as coaches or scouts. Just because you can play the game doesn’t mean you can identify and/or develop talent. Those are very different skills.

I do think Barwin has a chance to succeed in this role. First, he’s got a blue collar mentality. Some former players think talent evaluation is going to be fun or easy. They don’t realize you study thousands of prospects to find a handful of guys.

Barwin also has an advantage because of his personality. He was a leader for the Eagles. Not a great player “Follow me boys!” kind of leader, but rather someone who cared about his teammates and built strong relationships with them. He should be good at reading prospects to find out who has the right kind of personality. Intangibles go a long way toward success in the NFL.

Howie Roseman said the Eagles had a couple of additions to the personnel staff that the team would be announcing. He seemed excited about the moves. This wasn’t a move I was expecting. I loved Barwin as a player. We’ll have to see if he can get the job done in the front office.

It does make you wonder what the other move or moves will be.

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