Bunch of Nobodies

Posted: January 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 255 Comments »

Free agency doesn’t start until March, but there are moves to be made now. The Eagles have added a handful of players already.

WR Dom Williams
WR Rasheed Bailey
FB Andrew Bonnet
OL Josh LeRibeus
CB Mitchell White

So that would be nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody and nobody. Right?

Most signings like this do not pan out. If the team is lucky, the player becomes an effective role player. Most don’t make the team. But every now and then you find a hidden gem. Which WR posted the most yards for the Falcons in Saturday’s playoff win over Seattle? That would be Taylor Gabriel (4-71). He tied for the team lead in TD catches this season and has been a great find for the Falcons. And they aren’t even his first team. He wasn’t good enough for…the Browns.

Farmer did keep Gabriel around and he made the team in 2014. Heck, he was productive (36-621-1). Gabriel’s numbers dropped in 2015. With Farmer out as GM and a coaching change, Gabriel was let go. He got a second chance in Atlanta and has become a key part of their offense. You may remember him burning Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard TD at The Linc a couple of months back. (Here is a good story on Gabriel and his background if you want to know more)

Sometimes guys just slip through the cracks.

Jimmy Smith was cut by Dallas and the Eagles before he went to Jacksonville and had a great career.

Lin Dawson and Johnny Unitas were both cut by the Steelers. They did okay for themselves.

James Harrison was a UDFA signing by the Steelers. He was on and off their practice squad before going to Baltimore for a while. They sent him to NFL Europe. He ended up back with the Steelers and has had a great career since then.

I think we all know Kurt Warner’s crazy story. He was all over the place before finding a home with the Rams. Even then, it took an injury to Trent Green to get Warner on the field.

Derek Wake went from Penn State to playing in the CFL. He changed his name to Cameron Wake and became one heck of a pass rusher. Miami signed him to see if he could play in the NFL. 81.5 sacks and 21 FFs later, I’d say the answer is yes.

NFL rosters are set at 53 players for the regular season, but are up at 90 for most of the offseason. You don’t just know who the 53 best players are. You need to bring in a bunch of players to find the 53 best. Teams have detailed scouting reports on all of these players, but you never know how they will respond to a given situation. Scheme matters. Coaching matters. Teammates matter. Environment matters.

Evan Mathis was in the NFL for 6 seasons before coming to Philly. He played for 3 teams and started 22 games. He showed flashes of talent, but something still wasn’t clicking. That all changed when he got to play for Howard Mudd in Philly. Mudd’s scheme was perfect for him and Mathis became a Pro Bowl player. The talent was always there, but the circumstances hadn’t been right to get him to perform at his best.

Joselio “MmmBop” Hanson was on SF’s practice squad in 2003. He made their roster in 2004. Hanson got cut in 2005 and went to NFL Europe. The Eagles signed him prior to 2006 and he became a key role player for the next 6 seasons.

 

The Eagles did have luck with one player from the CFL, DE Phillip Hunt. He was a backup pass rusher in 2011 and 2012, totaling 3 sacks.

There is no reason to get excited by the players the Eagles have added, but the beauty of pro football is that you never know when a nobody will become a somebody.

*****

Crazy.

And go Packers!!!

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Close or Not?

Posted: January 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 178 Comments »

Are the Eagles “close”?

Doug Pederson says yes.

Howie Roseman won’t answer, but goes on to say just being 10-6…just getting into the playoffs isn’t good enough.

What gives? I addressed the situation in this week’s PE.com column.

On the surface, it sounds like the two of them disagree. That’s not really the case at all. Each man has a different perspective, based on his job. The coach has to think of today or this week. He can’t live in the future. Coaches who think too much about the future rarely make it to the future. Personnel executives have a different situation. They built the current roster, but are always looking to the future. What does the upcoming draft look like? Free agency? Should I be negotiating with my current players on extensions?

Both men actually gave the right answer.

The Eagles were close to being a winning team.

Being a winning team isn’t good enough.

The goal is to be a legitimate title contender. That means playing at a high level. The Eagles started to do this in 2001. They broke through in 2002 and played really good football again in 2003 and 2004. Those teams had a franchise QB, strong O-line and an outstanding defense. You can see where the current Eagles are headed in that direction. Whether they can be as good as the 2001-2004 teams is yet to be seen. That all depends on the development of Carson Wentz and whether they can find the right guys to go around him.

*****

Jimmy Bama wrote about Groh here.

Groh has worked for the Bears and Rams. Prior to that he was at Alabama and did a great job with some talented college players. He is the son of former NFL and college coach Al Groh. Mike has been around the game of football his whole life.

One interesting angle with Groh is that he coached these players in the past:

Alshon Jeffrey
Brandon Marshall
Brian Quick
Kenny Britt

Marshall could be cut or might be available in a trade. The other three players are all free agents. Hiring Groh would not be a sign that the Eagles are going to pursue any of those WRs, but it is an interesting connection.

The problem with Groh is that he might want to be a QB coach in the NFL or offensive coordinator at the college level. He played QB in college and was a QBs coach at Virginia and Louisville. He was also an OC for Virginia.

If Groh wants to prove he can really coach, there is no better opportunity than taking the Eagles WR job. Get that group turned around and you would never be doubted again.

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Coach Update

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 213 Comments »

Nothing official yet, but…

We’ll see what happens.

One interesting note about Lal.

Sure enough, Lal is a client there. Is Bob LaMonte, Howie’s agent, pushing Lal on the Eagles? That’s a fair question to ask.

At the same time, it isn’t like Lal is unqualified or anything like that. He has been an assistant in the NFL for 10 seasons. He’s worked for different teams, coaches and GMs. Relationships aside, I would have no problem with the Eagles hiring Lal.

Some have talked about Jags WR coach Jerry Sullivan. He has been a terrific assistant for a long time, but apparently is considering retiring. He will turn 73 this summer.

*****

The Eagles added WR Dom Williams from the Chargers practice squad.

Williams spent his rookie year on the Chargers’ practice squad after leading the team with 10 catches for 132 yards in the preseason. He signed with San Diego as a rookie free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6-2, 200-pound Williams was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention after his senior season at Washington State in 2015. He had 75 catches for 1,040 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year with the Cougars. He finished his Washington State career ranked second all time in school history in receiving yards (2,889), second in touchdown catches (30) and third in receptions (192).

Williams played for Mike Leach at WSU. Over the years, Leach has done a good job of developing WRs with good hands. Williams isn’t dynamic, but he is a hands catcher and can make tough grabs. He has solid size and a year of NFL practice under his belt. Good competition for Training Camp.

*****

Sean McDermott is now the head coach in Buffalo.

McDermott had a great run with the Eagles before being let go after the 2010 season. Andy Reid wanted a change in the defense, but also knew McDermott needed a change of scenery. He didn’t handle the transition from assistant to defensive coordinator well. I’m not talking about X’s and O’s, but rather how he treated people. McDermott tried to assert himself into the new role and rubbed a few people the wrong way. He wasn’t a bad guy. He simply needed a change of scenery.

McDermott did a very good job with the Panthers and now gets a chance to show he is ready to run his own team. He certainly has the knowledge and experience from working under great coaches. It will be interesting to see how his leadership skills have improved and if he learned from the past.

Good luck to him.

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Coaching Target?

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 69 Comments »

Greg Lewis is out. So who will take over as WRs coach? We can joke about TO or Todd Pinkston or Billy McMullen, but I’m guessing Doug Pederson will try to hire someone good and with coaching experience so put your former Eagle dreams on hold. I know many of you would love the chance to yell at Pinkston every week, but it just isn’t going to happen.

You can check out Lal’s biography here.

Let’s keep it simple and talk about WRs who played well under his tutelage.

2016 – BUF – Marquise Goodwin

2015 – BUF – Sammy Watkins

2014 – NYJ – Eric Decker

2013 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson

2012 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley

2011 – OAK – Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey

2010 – OAK – Jacoby Ford

2009 – OAK – Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy

Not all of those guys had 1,000 yards or 10 TDs in a season. That would be great, but would also miss the point. Lal has had success with a variety of WRs, with most of them not being elite talents. He was able to get the most out of his players that he could. That’s exactly what Greg Lewis didn’t do.

Lal had success with big guys. He also had success with small, fast guys. He was able to cobble together a solid set of WRs when injuries hit and he had to play guys that had limited talent. Lal had success with rookies, young players and a couple of veterans as well. He doesn’t need one specific type of player or receiver to make things work.

Lal isn’t the best WRs coach in the NFL. He’s not a magician. If the Eagles do bring him in, he would help the current group, but clearly only a talent infusion will get the Eagles the kind of help they need at WR.

That said, I still do think the Eagles would like to see what Nelson Agholor and DGB could do with better coaching and better QB play. Doug Pederson already started the process of changing position coaches. Carson Wentz should take a step forward in 2017 and that will help his receivers out. A smart, accurate, experienced QB can be a big help to less than great WRs.

The realistic goal at this point is to see if Agholor and DGB can be good role players. Ted Ginn was a 1st round pick who failed initially, but has since found a way to stay in the league as a productive role player. Agholor and DGB do have some talent. Agholor needs confidence and a lot of help. We can’t really evaluate DGB fairly since he had very little time with the team before the season. 2017 will tell us if he’s a tease or if someone can coach him up and get him to play well.

Stay tuned to see if Lal is the new WRs coach or if the team is looking around at other targets.

*****

Jimmy Bama has some info on the newest Eagle.

LeRibeus was a third round pick (71st overall) of the Skins in 2012. He has appeared in 28 games over his career, starting 12, 11 of which were in 2015. He was released by the Redskins at final cuts in 2016, and was unable to latch on with another team.

LeRibeus has guard/center versatility, which Doug Pederson obviously likes, however, he is a long shot to make the roster in 2017.

A young player with some experience and some upside is always worth taking a look at. But I agree with Jimmy that LeRibeus would be a long shot to make the team.

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Help for the WRs?

Posted: January 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 108 Comments »

The Eagles are going to make a coaching change.

https://twitter.com/CharlesRobinson/status/818495013306978304

I don’t think the second half of that tweet is accurate. No one in their right mind would look at the roster, the stats and the game tape and say “Greg Lewis is the only thing holding this group of receivers back from becoming stars.” That’s silly.

The firing of Lewis boils down to a simple point. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The Eagles obviously felt Lewis was more problem than solution. I can totally see where they are coming from. Dorial Green-Beckham was the same player in December as he was in September. Heck, maybe worse. Josh Huff showed no progress this year. Nelson Agholor had a torturous season, for him and us. Bryce Treggs highlight moment came in his first game.

The job of an assistant coach is to get the most out of his players. Lewis might have gotten the most out of Paul Turner that he could. That’s it. Everyone else would have to be labeled an underachiever, on some level. Jordan Matthews is a terrific young player, but he still has those moments (not getting the second foot down in the end zone) that frustrate you because he should be better.

No one expected this group to suddenly look like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az Hakim and Ricky Proehl, but there was simply too much underachieving.

The Eagles are going to add resources to the WR position this year. You don’t want to turn them over to an assistant coach you don’t believe in. I mean, you wouldn’t give the Glengarry leads to bad salesmen would you?

Jeff McLane wrote an interesting piece on the firing of Lewis.

It was the most dubious of the staffing hires made after Doug Pederson was named head coach last January, and was emphasized in this space at that time. But it became increasingly apparent that Lewis was unsuitable for the task at hand, as two instances before the season suggested.

The first occurred during training camp. Agholor, who entered the season after an underwhelming rookie season, was dropping passes on almost a daily basis. During one particular drill, the receiver was uncovered deep. The pass landed in Agholor’s hands, but he juggled it for a few steps before pulling it in and running into the end zone.

The play elicited cheers from some fans in attendance, but Agholor knew it wasn’t a catch worthy of praise. He pounded the football as he ran back toward his group. Lewis, though, walked out, met him, and patted him on the back with a smile.

Should Agholor have been admonished instead? Maybe not. Perhaps a teaching point was conveyed in the film room. But Lewis’ initial reaction was consistent with the Eagles’ public coddling of the receiver and with the position coach’s occasional rapport with his players.

For example, on the day that Paul Turner was signed to the Eagles practice squad, the undrafted rookie drew a pack of reporters to his locker stall. Lewis, one of the few assistants to regularly venture into the locker room, stood behind the cameras and made faces and gestures to get Turner to laugh.

It worked. But was it behavior befitting a first-year assistant trying to teach rookies and second- and third-year players how to thrive in the NFL? There’s nothing wrong with lightheartedness, and maybe the 36-year-old Lewis was stern behind closed doors, but repeated mistakes implied that his message wasn’t getting through.

Young assistant coaches have to balance out trying to befriend their players with trying to be an authority figure. It sounds like Lewis was too nice and wasn’t able to “command the room” as the saying would go in coachspeak. Duce Staley is another former player who became an assistant, but he has had no such issues. Staley can be very tough on his guys. He isn’t a jerk for the sake of it, but is demanding. Staley has become a good assistant and he could one day become a head coach.

Lewis might have a future in coaching, but it sounds like he’s got some learning to do.

The WR position will get some talent and a new coach. Let’s hope that combination is enough to get this group from the bottom of the NFL closer to the middle. Carson Wentz needs help.

*****

From PE.com.

White, listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds, has played in the Canadian Football league since 2014. After two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, White was named an All Star with the Ottawa RedBlacks, taking home a Grey Cup championship.

White was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2013, and after spending a short amount of time with the Oakland Raiders, White headed north of the border to pursue a career in the CFL. The Eagles also went to the CFL route last offseason to add cornerback Aaron Grymes, who shined for the Eagles in the preseason before a shoulder injury resulted in him being waived. Grymes re-signed with the Eagles later in the season and will compete for a roster spot heading into 2017.

CFL guys rarely pan out, but it is always smart to take a look. You never know when you might get lucky.

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