Stability Matters

Posted: June 18th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Howie Roseman drafted Fletcher Cox and Carson Wentz. He also drafted Marcus Smith and Donnel Pumphrey. For better or worse, Roseman is the guy in charge. Yes, the Eagles do use a collaborative process, but Roseman is the key voice.

Things have not always been like that.

Harry Gamble, Bob Ackles, John Wooten, Dick Daniels, Mike Lombardi and Bryan Broaddus were the key personnel guys from 1992-1998. They did some good things and some bad things. One of the problems was a lack of vision. The Eagles were all over the place with who they drafted and signed.

Tom Modrak was hired as the GM in the summer of 1998 and things started to change. He only lasted a few years, but he focused on re-signing good players instead of chasing guys on other teams. Modrak brought stability and organization to the Eagles. Andy Reid was hired early in 1999 and things really changed after that.

Stability has played a key part in the Eagles success over the past 20 years. I wrote about the value of stability for PE.com.

Think about it…the Eagles have had three coaches in the past 20 years. The Arizona Cardinals have had three in the past three years. When you change coaches, you change philosophies. That leads to a lot of roster upheaval. The Eagles have been able to keep many of their key players.

I wrote a piece back in April about how the draft classes from 2010-2013 involved many of the key players from the Super Bowl season. The Eagles did a good job in drafting those players, but just as importantly, they kept them around. How on earth did the Saints ever let Malcolm Jenkins leave? They spent a first round pick on Jenkins and watched him develop into a good player. Then they fell in love with some free agent and let Jenkins walk. That’s the kind of thing the Eagles did in the 1990’s.

No more.

The Eagles sure aren’t perfect, but this is one of the best run organizations in professional sports. I think stability is a big part of that. Jeffrey Lurie is the owner, Roseaman the GM and Doug Pederson the coach. They have now worked together since 2016, and go back even farther when you factor in Pederson as an assistant from 2009-2012. Those men are comfortable with each other and they have defined roles. When the leaders of an organization are on the same page, it can make a big difference.

Not only is it easier to pick/sign players, but it helps in developing them. There are some teams where the owner, GM and coach all have very different schedules in their mind. If a first rounder is coming along slowly, that can lead someone to be disappointed in the player and create a potentially toxic situation. The Eagles have been patient with players and that has mostly paid off very well.

Roster turnover in the 90’s was insane. Just look at the DL over the course of several years.

1991 – Reggie White – Jerome Brown – Mike Pitts/Mike Golic – Clyde Simmons

1992 – Reggie White – Mike Pitts – Mike Golic – Clyde Simmons

1993 – Tim Harris – Andy Harmon – William Perry – Clyde Simmons

1994 – William Fuller – Andy Harmon – William Perry – Greg Townsend

1995 – William Fuller – Andy Harmon – Ronnie Dixon – Mike Mamula

1996 – William Fuller – Rhett Hall – Hollis Thomas – Mike Mamula

1997 – Greg Jefferson – Rhett Hall – Hollis Thomas – Mike Mamula

1998 – Greg Jefferson – Bill Johnson – Hollis Thomas – Hugh Douglas

That is kinda nuts. Injuries were a problem for some of those years, but that’s still way too much change.

Brandon Graham has been here since 2010. Fletcher Cox since 2012. Vinny Curry was here 2012-2017 and he’s back now.

Tim Jernigan is in his third year with the team. So is Derek Barnett. Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller are young guys trying to carve out a role. There is a plan. Players are brought in to develop and stay with the team.

The days of constant change are over and I think you can see the results on the field.

*****

This is likely the best story you’ll read all day.

And don’t stop early. You must stay until the very end.

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Interesting Angle

Posted: June 16th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

There could be a benefit to Joe Douglas becoming the GM of the Jets.

According to this spring review of the Jets, one of their big weaknesses is CB.

Brother, can you spare a dime back? Better yet, how about a CB2? Yeah, the Jets have issues at cornerback. Big issues. Basically, they have two career backups in their CB2 and CB3 spots: Darryl Roberts and Brian Poole, respectively. Derrick Jones did some nice things in practice, but he’s raw and missed time with a leg injury. Douglas is well aware of the problem and already has tried to address it with a pair of minor moves, adding Mark Myers and Montrel Meander. (Yes, he will expand his search beyond players with “M.M.” as initials.) Trust me, they’re exploring the trade market.

Hmm.

The Eagles are heavy at CB. The 2017 starters, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, are working their way back from injuries. The team still has high hopes for Sidney Jones, who is healthy this spring and playing well. Avonte Maddox showed tremendous potential last year and is someone the Eagles definitely want on the field.

Rasul Douglas started 12 games over the past two years and could push for a starting role this season.

Cre’Von LeBlanc came out of nowhere to have a terrific season in the slot last year. His ability to play inside makes him a valuable DB.

The Eagles need to keep five CBs. That means someone could be dealt.

The flip side is that the team had to deal with all kinds of injuries last year. Howie Roseman may not be in a rush to trade anyone, especially with Darby and Mills still on the mend. If Roseman does want to deal someone, the Jets make a lot of sense.

You aren’t getting a high pick in return (and that may be all the more reason to wait until August), but Roseman isn’t afraid to take chances. If he thinks the team has five good CBs, he might be willing to make a deal.

*****

Mike Kaye wrote a good piece on DE Josh Sweat.

After only logging 68 snaps on defense as a rookie, Sweat has a chance to be a key role player in 2019. He looked good in the OTAs and optimism is high. Still, Sweat has work to do.

Sweat’s athleticism and length make him a strong fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s Wide-9 front. With added space to attack the line, Sweat’s burst and quickness could serve as major assets in the Eagles’ pass-rush.

“I’ve got a lot speed,” Sweat said. “I can either go with a lot of power or go inside. It’s really hard in space for offensive linemen to deal with that. All I’ve got to worry about is my get-off.”

His get-off didn’t exist last year. It was awkward to watch him. It is encouraging that Sweat is aware of his biggest weakness. Let’s hope he’s been able to do something about it.

*****

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

Raise your kids to root for the Eagles, to love the 4-3 defense and to understand the greatness of offensive linemen.

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Spring Review

Posted: June 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

OTAs are over. Let’s talk about some of what we learned over the past six weeks.

THE STARS

Carson Wentz – The team’s star QB is healthy and it shows. He looked great at times. Most importantly, Wentz got plenty of reps and developed good chemistry with his new teammates. Some of his best throws came in the Red Zone. That’s important because RZ play was down last year and hurt the team. Wentz looks like he might be getting back to his 2017 form, when he was on pace to be the league MVP before his late season injury.

DeSean Jackson – Jackson got everyone’s attention with his speed and overall level of play. He ran good routes and caught just about everything thrown his way. Jackson was able to really get in a rhythm with Wentz, partly because the two played so much together this spring. Jackson is an established veteran and could have skipped the OTAs if he wanted. Instead, he was there everyday and played lights out. Great sign for the upcoming season.

Dallas Goedert – Zach Ertz might be the best TE in the league. Goedert looks like he’s on his way to being one of the best. He made all kinds of impressive catches in the spring. Goedert won’t be a volume receiver, but he can be an impact player for this team.

***

UP AND COMING

Nate Sudfeld – Up and down showing. The coaches still believe in Sudfeld, but he didn’t do anything in the open practices to make anyone feel confident he can play at a high level if called upon. It would be good for Sudfeld to play better this summer.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai – Big V played RG this spring. It is impossible to judge him based on non-contact practices, but it is interesting that he spent all his time there. It will be interesting to see how he does at RG with the pads on.

Jordan Mailata – He spent last year at LT. This spring Mailata played RT. He was up and down, as you might expect. Mailata has a chance to be the team’s backup RT this season.

Joe Ostman – Second-year DE has gotten bigger and stronger. He impressed his teammates. Multiple OL cited him for his play in the OTAs. Ostman will be battling for a roster spot this summer. He helped himself with a strong showing in the spring

Josh Sweat – Doug Pederson mentioned Sweat as a player who stood out this spring. Sweat’s size and athleticism make him a natural to look good in the OTAs. Training Camp will be a bigger challenge.

Kamu Grugier-Hill – KGH was the best LB on the field this spring. He played well and looked as athletic as ever. Of course, it helped that the Eagles aren’t loaded with star LBs. Still, KGH is a player on the rise and should get even more time this year.

Avonte Maddox – The best DB on the field in the OTAs. Played in the slot and outside. Covered well and made plays. Looks ready to have a big season no matter where he lines up.

Sidney Jones – He’s healthy and had a good showing. He and Maddox moved inside and outside on different days. Jones has a legit shot to start this year, but he’ll have to earn that role this summer. The problem with Jones has been durability, not ability. He’s healthy now and is playing well.

Rasul Douglas – Seemed to face Jackson a lot this spring. Douglas struggled with his speed at times, but won some battles as well. Another CB with a chance to win a starting job.

***

NEW GUYS

Andrew Sendejo – Veteran FS had some good moments. The Eagles like to play 3-safety sets and Sendejo will help with that. Should be an improvement over Corey Graham.

Hassan Ridgeway – The Eagles traded for him during the draft and Ridgeway impressed the coaches this spring. He’s got a chance to be part of a strong DT rotation.

Cody Kessler – Did not impress anyone this spring.

***

ROOKIES

JJ Arcega Whiteside – The book on him coming out of Stanford is that he ran good routes and was outstanding on contested catches. This spring he ran good routes and looked outstanding on contested catches. That’s a great sign. Could be a valuable role player. Look for him in the Red Zone.

Miles Sanders – Missed all spring with a hamstring injury. Not an ideal start. This doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. You may recall that UDFA Josh Adams was hurt last spring and summer, but still led the team in rushing yards, rushing TDs and yards per carry. Sanders can still be a key part of the RB rotation.

Andre Dillard – Impressed everyone with his footwork and athleticism. Has a strong chance to be the team’s backup LT. Got a lot of reps in the OTAs and that should continue in the summer. Jason Peters doesn’t need a ton of practice so that gives his backups extra reps.

TJ Edwards – Undrafted rookie LB made his share of plays and always seemed to find a way to stand out. Doing his best to win a roster spot. I’m curious to see if he plays more MLB or WLB.

Clayton Thorson – Not off to a great start. Struggled this spring. He’s athletic, but his passing needs a lot of work if he is going to push for a roster spot.

***

LONGSHOTS

Marken Michel – Who? Sony Michel’s brother made plays on a regular basis. He forced everyone to learn his name and actually pay attention to him. That’s exactly what you want from the guys at the bottom of the roster.

Jeremiah McKinnon – Young CB flashed in the OTAs.

Boston Scott – Pederson mentioned Scott as a player who impressed him. Scott did have some “wow” moments in the OTAs. To be fair, those types of practices are made for guys with his skill set. Scott will need to be even better this summer, but he’s off to a good start and did exactly what he needed to. He got people’s attention.

*****

Bo Wulf surveyed Eagles players to see who impressed them. Excellent piece.

Jimmy Bama offered his stock up/stock down take on the spring.

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Front Office Update

Posted: June 14th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

With Joe Douglas now gone to the Jets, the Eagles decided to announce the changes to their front office.

Let’s take a look.

• Howie Roseman named Executive Vice President/General Manager

• Andy Weidl promoted to Vice President of Player Personnel

• Ian Cunningham promoted to Assistant Director of Player Personnel

• Brandon Brown promoted to Director of Pro Scouting

• Bryce Johnston promoted to Director of Football Administration

• Katie David promoted to Football Operations Director

• Casey Weidl promoted to Director of Scouting Operations

• Max Gruder hired as Assistant Director of Pro Scouting

• Matt Holland promoted to Senior Pro Scout

• Chris Nolan promoted to Player Personnel Scout

• Ameena Soliman hired as Player Personnel Coordinator

• James Gilman hired as Quantitative Analyst

• Ed Miller promoted to Assistant Equipment Manager

• Craig Blake promoted to Assistant Equipment Manager

Okay, so let’s talk about the key moves here.

Roseman’s title may have changed a bit, but he is still the team’s key decision-maker.

Weidl gets a promotion. He will now take over the Joe Douglas role. Weidl has the scouting background to do a good job in the new role. The question is whether he has the people skills to deal with the challenges of the new position. Being a scout and being an executive are two different things.

The Eagles obviously value Weidl so they must believe he’ll do just fine in the new role. Weidl has a strong reputation around the league. Douglas wanted to bring him to New York, but the Eagles didn’t want to lose Weidl.

You may wonder about how fair or how smart it is to keep scouts from leaving. Scouts sign contracts with teams. As far as I know, they can only leave when given a job with roster control (GM, President of Player Personnel, Team President…titles change by team). Teams enforce contracts to have front office stability. It takes time for scouts and coaches to all get on the same page. There is real value in that and you don’t want your evaluators leaving for lateral positions.

I’m sure Weidl is getting solid money from the Eagles so it isn’t like he’s being punished. When his contract is up, he’ll have to decide whether to stay or head off to NY to work with his friend. For now, he’s got a new role.

Cunningham also got a promotion. Douglas brought him to the Eagles in 2017. Here is a good quote on Cunningham from Howie Roseman.

“He is a guy that we hired from the Ravens and I remember talking to Ozzie Newsome (former Ravens general manager) and he said that Ian was one of the guys who had the most potential of anyone he had been with in that organization for a long time,” Roseman said of Cunningham. “He’s got a great way of visualizing a player when he’s evaluating guys, he’s got very strong opinions, very strong beliefs about what players are, and he believes in building a team the same way that we do. We’re really excited for him to take this next step.”

Cunningham and Weidl are the kind of guys you want to keep around.

I don’t think so.

The Eagles listed people that were hired or promoted. Guys like Tom Donahoe, Anthony Patch, T.J. McCreight and Ryan Myers are still listed on the team’s website. They are valued members of the scouting staff. You just can’t promote everyone.

The Eagles have a deep front office. You hate to lose Douglas, but the Eagles have plenty of good people still in place.

*****

This quote from Roseman about Andrew Berry was interesting.

“We knew when we hired him that he would be a big part of what we’re doing moving forward and giving him this opportunity working across football operations and personnel, player development, he’s got experience in analytics. He’s a vital part of our collaborative approach to building our football team,” said Roseman. “He has such a versatile résumé. He was a vice president of player personnel (with the Cleveland Browns) so he’s run a personnel department, he’s run a pro scouting department, he’s run a college scouting department. He’s put together an analytics group and now he’s got a chance to see what we’re doing.”

That is one versatile background. You can see why the Eagles wanted Berry. He is smart, experienced and has had all kinds of responsibilities. You can use him in a variety of ways.

*****

All three were rookies last year. I don’t know if Pederson did this intentionally or those three have all legitimately caught his eye. Either way, don’t make too much of it.

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Minicamp Roundup – Day 2

Posted: June 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Another day of practice, another day of practice notes.

Sheil Kapadia on Wentz to DeSean.

During the team period, DeSean Jackson lined up out wide to the left against cornerback Rasul Douglas and toasted him on a deep post. The bomb from Carson Wentz landed in Jackson’s hands as he made his way to the end zone.

Earlier in practice, during the route-on-air portion (no defenders), Jackson ran a 20-yard stop route. Wentz released the ball before Jackson was out of his break. By the time Jackson turned around and put his hands up, the pass was there.

The anticipation and timing between these two have been impressive all spring. Seeing their connection has made it glaringly obvious how much this offense has been missing a true vertical threat.

It’s never wise to put too much stock into OTAs and minicamp, but this spring couldn’t have gone much better for the Wentz-Jackson connection. I’m not quite ready to say Jackson will lead the Eagles in receiving yards, but I’m getting there.

The Eagles have been lacking an explosive weapon in recent years. Torrey Smith showed flashes in 2017, but wasn’t a consistent deep threat. Mike Wallace got hurt last year and didn’t do a thing. DeSean Jackson is a major upgrade.

It is very encouraging to hear that Wentz and Jackson have already developed good on-field chemistry. If you’re going to be throwing vertical routes, you need excellent timing. These two could end up being a pretty lethal combination. Someone mentioned recently that Wentz could be the best QB that Jackson has ever played with. That could be true. And a scary thought for opposing defenses.

*****

Jimmy Bama on some good DBs.

The defensive highlight of the day was an interception by Avonte Maddox, who was playing what looked like trail coverage on Marken Michel, who was running some sort of seam route. When the ball was released by Wentz, Maddox accelerated — and then elevated — for the ball, making an impressive leaping catch, before running the other way with it. Maddox has picked up right where he left off a season ago, and looks really good.

As crazy as this sounds, Maddox could end up being the best DB on the Eagles. He is smart and athletic. He can hit and tackle. Maddox is versatile enough to play anywhere. He also is a playmaker. The big question is where Maddox will play. He’s alternated between the slot and outside corner this spring.

After retrieving his jock strap from the field on the Michel play, Sendejo bounced back and made a few nice plays of his own. He didn’t bite on a double move to Jackson, and was able to break up a deep throw from Wentz. He also made an interception on what was a bad read or throw, or combination of the two by Wentz.

Sendejo isn’t a fan favorite because he’s a former Viking, but the veteran FS is a good player and could play a key role this year. Corey Graham was disappointing last year and it hurt the defense. Sendejo is a better player. He should be a good #3 safety and can even fill in as a starter if needed.

*****

Jeff McLane on Malcolm Jenkins.

Malcolm Jenkins hasn’t had many passes thrown his way over the last two days, but his contributions extend beyond playmaking. I asked Doug Pederson before practice if he was worried about the safety’s displeasure over his contract situation affecting his performance and the coach said that he thought it wouldn’t become a distraction. I can’t imagine it will. During the 2017 season, Jenkins and defensive end Brandon Graham started racing to the ball at the start of team drills as a way to encourage their teammates and add an element of hustle to each practice. They did it again last season, and when the whistle blew for the start of team drills the last two days, Jenkins was the first player to the ball.

Cool story.

Leadership comes in many different forms. Bringing this kind of energy and competitive spirit to practice has real value. Practice isn’t easy and isn’t a lot of fun. If you can fire up other players and get them to really buy into practice, that is going to help the team. Generally speaking, the teams that practice the best play the best.

The second unit: Josh Sweat, after spending most of the spring on the left, took some snaps on the right and got to face off against rookie Andre Dillard. I wouldn’t make much of line play when little contact is allowed, but as far as technique goes, Dillard looks like he’s miles ahead of most first-year tackles. He has cat-like feet and on one rush squared up Sweat with ease. I don’t know what to make of Nate Sudfeld’s spring. He’s had his moments and there are parts of his game that really stand out – like his touch on deep balls or passes that need to be floated into certain spots. But he’s had his struggles on throws outside the hashes. He hasn’t always gotten to work with the best receivers, but it’s not like the second unit defense is full of future NFL starters.

Good note there on Dillard, the rookie LT. He’s got plenty to learn, but it sounds like his talent is obvious to those watching practice. You can learn technique and develop skills, but talent is something you have or you don’t. Should be fun to watch Dillard in Training Camp and the preseason.

*****

Mike Kaye on Joe Ostman and Boston Scott.

The practice squad holdover had a nice day. In back-to-back 11-on-11 plays, Ostman was in the backfield for “would-be sacks.” At one point, his burst led to a few offensive linemen hitting the ground, including first-round left tackle Andre Dillard. Ostman brought consistent pressure but it’s important to keep in mind that these are limited contact drills and the pass rushers are at an advantage.

Ostman keeps stacking good practices. That’s what he needs to do to have a legit shot to make the roster. I still have my reservations about Ostman, but I am genuinely excited to see him in TC and the preseason. Is he Steven Means, Pt. 2? Is he more than that?

Running back Boston Scott had a really impressive cut during a handoff in 11-on-11 drills. It was so impressive that Scott had a huge hole to run through and the offense players on the sideline erupted. It was like Scott’s teammates were reacting to Allen Iverson crossing over Michael Jordan. It was a bit much but the move was impressive.

Scott has gotten the attention of the coaches. Obviously doing this in shorts is one thing. Doing this in pads with full contact will be a bigger challenge. There is a spot for a RB like him on the roster, but Scott will have to be lights out.

*****

Brandon Lee Gowton with some Red Zone highlights.

Wentz was on fire during red zone drills. He hit Wendell Smallwood on a wheel route in the back left corner of the end zone. The ball JUST made it over the outstretched arms of Tre Sullivan and into the hands of Wendell Smallwood as he ran the route in stride. Perfect timing and accuracy. Very impressive throw. Right after the Smallwood completion, Wentz threw a tight window touchdown to a tip-toeing Zach Ertz along the back of the end zone. Another great ball.

The Eagles were great in the Red Zone in 2017. Last year? Not so much. Getting back to being a top RZ team would help tremendously. Better weapons will be a big part of improved RZ play, but Wentz needs to be better as well. He left points on the field last year.

Undrafted rookie free agent DeAndre Thompkins got some “oooh’s” from his veteran teammates while doing a receiver drill focused on releases. He looked shifty.

Thompkins has the talent to be a role player in the NFL. I’m interested to see what he does this summer.

*****

PE.com on Marken Michel.

Another strong outing from young wide receiver Marken Michel. During a 7-on-7 drill, broken coverage allowed Michel to catch a wide-open pass out of the slot. But as the defensive back slowly came up to touch him to end the play, again no tackling here, Michel cut to the corner and raced away from the defense for a touchdown. Good hustle from Michel, who is taking advantage of the extended reps during this minicamp.

With some veterans out due to injury, Michel has taken advantage of the extra reps given to him. When you’re down the depth chart, that is exactly what you have to do.

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