Reggie

Posted: May 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 112 Comments »

Quiet weekend in terms of news or events so why not take a second and appreciate the greatness of Reggie White, the best defensive lineman to ever play in the NFL.

Reggie is my favorite NFL player of all time. My 3 favorite athletes are Reggie, Julius Erving and Eddie Murray. I have so many great memories of Reggie. My only regret is that one of those memories isn’t him winning a Super Bowl as an Eagle. I was ecstatic when he won a title with the Packers in 1996. As much as I wanted to see the Eagles win, I also was desperate for Reggie to get a title before he retired.

Here is a good video with clips of him as an Eagle and Packer.

Reggie was special because he combined speed, quickness, strength, power and agility. He could beat blockers in a variety of ways.

The most amazing stat for me is that Reggie piled up 124 sacks in 121 games as an Eagle. For 8 years, he averaged just over a sack a game. That kind of production and consistency is crazy.

As good as J.J. Watt is, he has 74.5 sacks in 80 career games.

Enough with numbers. Enjoy some more of number 92 in action.

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Lowered Expectations

Posted: May 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 79 Comments »

Look what Jeff Lurie had to say about the Eagles.

“I encourage people to keep low expectations.”

Wait. What? Why haven’t we heard more about that quote? Mainly because it is from the summer of 1999. The Eagles were coming off a 3-13 season. They hired some guy named Andy Reid to be coach. He had never even been a coordinator at the NFL level and was now running a team.

The Eagles had brought in Doug Pederson, Charles Johnson and Torrance Small…to improve their offense. I repeat, to improve their offense. Read that sentence a few times and then let it sink in.

ESPN had the Eagles dead last in their Power Rankings.

31. Eagles (3-13) And you thought Eagles fans were booing loudly on draft day.

Zing!!!

(Why only 31st? The Texans didn’t exist yet.)

I stumbled across these goodies while doing some research for a piece comparing the 1999 Eagles and the 2016 team. Needless to say, I think the current group is a bit more talented.

Remember Sean Salisbury, the lousy football analyst for ESPN? He offered some brilliant insight into the 1999 team.

The Eagles are three to five years away from really doing anything. They just simply have too many holes.

I played with Doug Pederson in Miami, and I like him as a player. But to ask him to go from being a third-team quarterback his whole career to being a starter is too big a jump. Pederson has not played well in the preseason, and Donovan McNabb is not picking up the offense as quickly. I just don’t see what they’re going to be able to rely on offensively.

A reasonable goal for them right now is to try to develop McNabb. Young teams that aren’t going to compete for titles must try to develop their quarterbacks. Some people say not to throw the quarterback in too early — if they struggle a lot, they’ll lose their confidence. Well, if a QB loses his confidence, he shouldn’t be playing anyway. They shouldn’t coddle McNabb and should just work on getting him ready.

He actually got paid for that nonsense? Crazy.

I’m going to write a post on the predictions for this Eagles team, but it was fun to look back and see the thoughts on the past, knowing how that would turn out.

Football is the ultimate team game. You never know just how much of a difference coaching and togetherness can mean in this sport. The NBA is all about talent. The NFL is different. You can’t just throw together a bunch of good individuals and have them win. They need to play well together. And they need to be led by a strong head coach and good coaching staff.

Pederson is a huge X-factor for this team. I don’t know what to make of him. I hope he’s going to be good, but you really don’t know with a first time coach like him. There’s just not enough of a track record to make a strong prediction. I do think he’s done a good job to this point so that’s encouraging.

The first test for any coach is how you handle your own business. The Eagles have a couple of contract issues right now, but Pederson has handled them the right way. Chip Kelly seemed to take things personally. For some reason, he just couldn’t resist saying something inflammatory.

Pederson learned from Big Red. Let the players say whatever they want. Protect them from the media and then talk to them behind closed doors. That earned tremendous loyalty for Reid and Pederson being a former player knows just how much that can mean to players.

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Time To Step Up

Posted: May 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 219 Comments »

DeSean Jackson had a monster year in 2013. Jeremy Maclin had a career year in 2014. Things did not go so well in 2015. WR play was disappointing. A big part of that was Nelson Agholor struggling as a rookie.

Many people thought Agholor would flourish last year. Some even predicted he would be the rookie of the year. That didn’t happen. Not even close. Agholor started 12 games, but only finished 23-283-1.

While Agholor was disappointing, he wasn’t Marcus Smith, Pt. 2. Agholor did have some really good moments and showed serious potential.

Agholor had his moments. The question isn’t whether he can play, but rather whether he can be an impact receiver. He has the right combination of size, skill and speed, but things just didn’t work last year. Injuries hurt him. Adjusting to Chip Kelly’s system hurt him. Adjusting to life in the NFL hurt him.

This year Agholor is improved and more confident. That’s great, but it won’t mean a whole lot until he proves himself on the field. You can say and do all the right things in the offseason, but your play will be the only thing people really listen to.

In this interview with Dave Spadaro, Agholor sure says all the right things. He comes across as a very hungry young man, out to prove that 2015 was a rookie fluke and won’t happen again.

The Eagles are willing to bet Agholor will take a serious step forward. The team knew it didn’t have an ideal WR situation, but rather than panicking, they decided to give Agholor and Josh Huff another chance to show what they can do. The Eagles hedged their bet a little by signing free agents Chris Givens, Rueben Randle and T.J. Graham. They didn’t add any receivers in the draft, but did sign key UDFA Cayleb Jones.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports offered his thoughts on Agholor, and some other rookies that must step up in 2016.

Despite the hope that he’d be an immediate cog in the Eagles’ offense last season, Agholor had physical and mental hurdles that hampered his adjustment to the NFL. In some ways, the difficulties were fairly garden variety for wide receivers – adjusting to the tougher nature and speed of the NFL and absorbing a new offense. Confidence was a factor, too. All in all, the NFL was a much bigger stage and adjustment than Agholor anticipated. Ultimately, he had to go back to the drawing board this offseason when it came to aspects like diet, study and workout habits. That sounds like a lot, but the Eagles feel like it was the more typical shock/adjustment issues that face NFL rookie receivers. There won’t be a lot of patience in Year 2. The Eagles have a significant need for a consistent playmaker next to Jordan Matthews, and they’ll be looking at Agholor to take the biggest stride in the wide receiver group.

There is risk in the Eagles relying so much on Agholor and Huff, but it seems like the right way to go at this point. You need to find out if they can play. If not, receiver becomes an area of critical need in 2017.

Think about the WR situation for a minute.

2015

Jordan Matthews (2nd year)
Riley Cooper
Josh Huff (2nd year)
Nelson Agholor (rookie)
Miles Austin
Seyi Ajirotutu

2016

Jordan Matthews (3rd year)
Josh Huff (3rd year)
Nelson Agholor (2nd year)
Chris Givens
Rueben Randle
T.J. Graham
Cayleb Jones (rookie UDFA)

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the 2016 group for sure. You get rid of Cooper and Austin, while adding Givens, Randle and Graham. Each of those young players has issues and that’s why they were available, but Cooper was a mess and Austin was an older guy on the decline.

The younger receivers may not pan out, but at least there is some upside with them. If they do play as hoped, they could really help the offense. It was hard to envision Cooper or Austin doing that last year.

The Eagles are going to do everything they can to get the best out of Agholor. In the interview with Spadaro, Agholor said a lot of good things about new receivers coach Greg Lewis. Let’s hope G-Lew can prove to be an underrated offseason addition. If he’s able to get Agholor or Huff to really play up to their potential, the offense will get a serious boost.

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Practice Talk

Posted: May 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 110 Comments »

The Eagles practiced on Tuesday, but I didn’t get a chance to read all the practice notes from beat writers and comment on them. Let’s do that now.

First, these are OTAs. Some players are rusty. Some are new. You cannot make too much of what happens, good or bad. My interest is more just in trying to get a feel for things rather than trying to make any definitive conclusions.

Wendell Smallwood is a good receiver, per Jimmy Bama.

Wendell Smallwood was not on my radar. In 2015, Smallwood had 26 catches for 160 yards (a low 6.2 YPC average), and a long reception of just 15 yards. Over his college career, he didn’t have a single receiving touchdown.

However, after watching Smallwood in practice at the Eagles’ first OTA session, it’s a lot more clear why the Eagles like him. That guy can catch the football. With Darren Sproles staying away from voluntary practices, Smallwood got a ton of reps, both with the twos and threes. He made the most of his added work, catching at least a dozen passes all over field, some more difficult than others, in the rain. He was very impressive in that regard.

I went back and re-watched Smallwood from earlier in his WVa career, when he would line up in the slot and play some receiver. You could see Smallwood was comfortable running routes and catching the ball away from the LOS. Swings and screens are generally soft passes. Catching the ball in the slot 10 yards up the field is very different. Smallwood can handle all those throws.

More from Bama…Leodis McKelvin is agressive. And vocal.

Leodis McKelvin had a good day. He stripped Josh Huff and had a nice pass breakup down the sideline. After his pass breakup, he loudly yelled obscenities. McKelvin, I should note, wears these super baggy pants during practice. They’re the pants equivalent of Sam Bradford’s sleeves.

You love DBs that play with some attitude. For some reason, that position is one place where having a big mouth and being a bit delusional is a good thing.

Rodney McLeod made his presence known, per Tim McManus.

New Eagles safety Rodney McLeod gets the better of him (Bradford) moments later, though, using good anticipation to jump a Bradford throw and return it for a “pick-six.”

One of the things I like about McLeod is that he can play back and then attack the ball. He has good speed and instincts.

All the writers had good things to say about Sam Bradford’s overall performance. It sounds like he started a bit slow and then got better.

From Jeff McLane.

Daniel hooked up with Celek on a number of downfield throws. The quarterback looked far more familiar with the offense, understandable so. … That being said, Bradford had a strong practice, especially late. He just throws the ball better than the other quarterbacks at this stage.

From McManus.

11:46 — 7-on-7s. Bradford slips a pretty pass between a pair of linebackers and into the mitts of Rueben Randle over the middle. New Eagles safety Rodney McLeod gets the better of him moments later, though, using good anticipation to jump a Bradford throw and return it for a “pick-six.”

Following a Matthews catch from Bradford along the left sideline, a coach yells to the group: “Hustle back!” It’s receivers coach Greg Lewis, who was maybe the most vocal of the coaches Tuesday. Surprised me a bit.

12:19 — Bradford finishes practice on a strong note. Lofts a perfect deep ball to Matthews along the right side, and the receiver hauls it in for a big gain.

I didn’t like the attempt to force the Eagles into a trade, but if Bradford plays well….I think I’ll find it in my heart to forgive him.

No one had anything too compelling to say about Carson Wentz. He looked like a rookie QB just trying to figure things out. I’ll be much more interested in where he is in August. At that point, he’ll have had time to figure out the playbook and to adjust to the speed of an NFL practice. We’ll have a better feel for where he really is at that point.

*****

Jimmy did a fantastic job with depth chart info in his article. Some things stood out to me.

Taylor Hart was a starting DT. This was purely due to Fletcher Cox sitting out. Beau Allen also missed practice. I’m curious if Allen or Hart would have “started” had both been there. Hare was a DE for Chip Kelly, but can play DT in the new scheme.

Connor Barwin is listed as the starting RDE. That put Brandon Graham as the backup at that spot. It will be interesting to see who is the starter in August.

Rookie DT Destiny Vaeao played with the second and third team. He is a big, talented player. He’ll have a chance to win a roster spot this summer.

The Eagles had Jaylen Watkins playing Safety. I do not get that. He is not a good tackler. It is critical for a S to do a good job in run support in this system. I much prefer Watkins at CB in this scheme.

It is very early and this doesn’t mean anything long term, but it is interesting to see what the team is thinking right now.

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Sam Speaks

Posted: May 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 155 Comments »

Sam Bradford finally had to face the media. He was hammered with all the expected questions about fear of competition, his relationship with Carson Wentz, trying to be a leader on the team he wanted out of and why he demanded the trade.

All in all, I thought Bradford handled himself well. He was contrite, within reason. He was honest enough that his comments could be taken seriously. It would have been fun to see Bradford go full on Jake Blues.

LOCUSTS!!!

But alas, Bradford kept things within reason and played it safe. He did blame agent Tom Condon for being the brains behind the request for the trade. I doubt any reasonable person fully buys that.

Maybe the most interesting thing to me was when Bradford talked about A.J. Feeley. Bradford was asked whether he would help out Carson Wentz. He then told the story of Feeley being the veteran starter when he was drafted and how helpful Feeley was to him, despite the fact Bradford was there to steal his job.

I believe Bradford when he says he will help Wentz. Veteran players usually do help younger guys. That’s a football tradition. And the help Bradford gives Wentz isn’t likely to make much of a difference right away. The hints and tips are probably more about development than playing well immediately.

Bradford gave a smart answer when asked about the fans anger at him. He said he understood and that there’s nothing he can say to change that. He talked about the key being his actions from here on out. And he’s right. If Bradford plays well, all will be forgiven. If he struggles, fans will be relentless.

Here is the video.

*****

Doug Pederson also spoke to the media. He reiterated that Bradford is the starter. Pederson said he understood the situation and had already moved on. He didn’t want Bradford looking over his shoulder, but rather focusing on the game in front of him.

That’s about all Pederson can say. There’s no point to ripping his QB publicly. Pederson wants to win games and the QB who gives him the best chance to do that right now is Bradford.

Pederson said that Allen Barbre is the LG for now. Based on what I’ve heard, that is very much written in pencil. The Eagles need better LG play this year. If Barbre can do that, fine. If not, someone else will get a chance to play.

Pederson also talked about players and injuries. Nolan Carroll was limited as he works his way through rehab. Jordan Hicks is dealing with some leg issues, but the team doesn’t seem concerned.

Here’s the Pederson video.

*****

Gordon’s blocking needs a lot of work. A lot. Eagles obviously like something they saw on tape.

*****

Ty Powell is a great athlete coming off a knee injury. He could challenge for a backup spot at SAM or MLB.

*****

 

Pederson said he’s stayed in contact with Sproles and that he expects him back soon.

As good as Sproles is, I wouldn’t mind if the Eagles dealt him. All you are getting is a late round pick, but you also create a roster spot and playing time for young players. If I thought the Eagles could compete for a title, I’d say keeping Sproles is absolutely worth it. I don’t see the Eagles being on that level this year. I wouldn’t blame them for making a deal so they can get a look at Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall.

Sproles won’t be here for ever so auditioning his replacements does make some sense. It wouldn’t improve the 2016 Eagles, but could help down the line.

*****

CB Brandon Boykin got cut by Carolina. Still no idea what’s going on with him. He was an outstanding nickelback in 2013-14. Boykin was frustrated by his lack of an opportunity to play outside. The Eagles dealt him and now Boykin is struggling to keep any job. Weird.

The Eagles don’t have anyone locked into the slot spot right now. I doubt they go for Boykin, but you never know.

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