LJ at LT

Posted: May 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 175 Comments »

Did the Eagles want Dion Jordan in the 2013 Draft? We won’t know until Chip Kelly writes his memoir (after winning Super Bowls and then taking over as head coach at New Hampshire). The Eagles drafted Lane Johnson. Whether they “settled” for him or got their guy, it turned out to be a great pick.

Johnson started all 16 games at RT in 2013. He played well after a bit of a slow start. He then got suspended for 4 games in 2014. Johnson returned and started the final 12 games. He started a bit slow, but got up to speed pretty quickly and had a good year.

Heading into Year 3, Johnson has established himself as one of the better RTs in the NFL. Johnson isn’t complacent though. He went out to LA and worked out with Jay Glazer in the offseason. Glazer isn’t just the top inside source in the NFL, he also is a MMA training guru. Sounds like Johnson had a quiet, pleasant trip to Cali.

“First of all, Lane is an elite athlete, and he got right into the program. He was awesome,” Glazer said. “What we do have is we will grind you out, and grind you and grind you until somebody just says ‘get Randy Couture off me (in the ring).’ And that’s what we kind of do is utilize that, so a guy like Lane who threw up nine times in the first three days because he’s never been through something like this. So he came to us at 310 pounds, and he left at 310.

Yikes. I’ve also thrown up a few times in my offseason trips to Cali. PBR training isn’t the same as MMA training, but it can be equally tough on the body.

This next bit is pretty cool.

“And he’s totally changed his body composition. He told me that when he went in to test (at the start of the offseason conditioning program at the NovaCare Complex), he had the highest new muscle growth, the highest fat-loss change and highest body composition change of anyone on his team. And the highest velocity output and the highest force output for anybody in his position, so all the big guys. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

That’s really impressive for an OT.

Maybe this is the season that Johnson takes the next step and becomes a dominant player. That would be fun to watch. He is a very good run blocker. I think DeMarco Murray will enjoy going to that side at least a couple of times a game. Here’s one good example of Johnson’s run blocking.

Not too shabby.

As for the future, Lane Johnson is talented enough to take over for Jason Peters at LT. Johnson is a terrific athlete and has worked hard to become a good pass blocker. Johnson played both LT and RT in college so moving to the other side wouldn’t be completely foreign to him.

The Eagles have the flexibility to think of Johnson as the LT of the future or to keep him at RT and draft someone else for LT. Maybe the Eagles take a guy that is 6-7, 330 and doesn’t have great feet. Plug him in on the right side and slide Johnson over. Or maybe they find a guy that is 6-5, 300 with great feet. Put him at LT and keep Johnson right where he is. That flexibility is a huge asset when planning for the future.

God forbid something happens to Jason Peters this year, I would guess that Johnson slides over to that spot and then Andrew Gardner or Matt Tobin would likely take over at RT.

Peters is 33. In theory, his career should be winding down. But Peters is a bit of an anomaly. His combination of size and athleticism is beyond rare. Try freaky. Maybe he plays just this year. Maybe he’s good for 2 more years. Maybe 3. Who knows? The coaches will watch him closely. You don’t want to stick with a player too long, especially at a critical position like LT. It will be interesting to see when he starts to show definitive signs that age is becoming a factor. He is human, after all. Right?

* * * * *

Speaking of Peters, many of you have asked about converting players to OL. Peters did it. About that…Peters played TE at Arkansas. But he was 6-4, 323. There was no question he would be an OL in the NFL.

Eric Tomlinson 6-6, 263

Andrew Gleichert 6-5, 264

Those guys have the frame to play OL, but would need to add 25 pounds to even become small OL. I think Tomlinson has good TE potential so I doubt they do anything with him. Gleichert played TE and even some FB. I’m not sure if he’d be comfortable as an OL. I don’t see either guy as a convert at this point.

DL Travis Raciti could be interesting as a conversion candidate. He is nasty, physical and athletic. The Eagles like his potential as a DE for now, but if things get crowded or he struggles…who knows. Maybe they’d try a move.

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Agholor and Bradford

Posted: May 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 312 Comments »

More praise for Eagles 1st round pick Nelson Agholor, this time from CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang. He had a lot of good things to say.

Like (DeSean) Jackson, Agholor possesses remarkable agility and acceleration, making him a threat to score every time he touches the ball. It is a big play potential that frankly, no one else on Philadelphia’s receiving corps possesses – including second-year pro Jordan Matthews who finished second to Maclin in receptions (67), receiving yards (872) and touchdowns (eight) a year ago. Agholor’s potential as a vertical threat could be especially deadly given how opposing defenses will be forced to pay extra attention to three-headed monster of Demarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Matthews now at running back in Philadelphia.

It isn’t just Agholor’s athleticism that makes him such an intriguing fit for the Eagles, however. Unlike Jackson, Agholor is a polished and reliable route-runner known for his work ethic and versatility. In fact, his ability to beat press coverage with technique and speed, alike, helped Agholor star both on the perimeter and out of the slot in Steve Sarkisian’s pro-style offense at Southern Cal.

And

While sources suggest that Kelly did very much pursue a trade up for his former quarterback Marcus Mariota prior to the draft, I’m among those who believe Sam Bradford has the accuracy and football savvy to star in the Eagles’ up-tempo offense. Health, of course, will prove most important for the oft-injured Bradford. A dynamic pass-catcher like Agholor – something Bradford never had in St. Louis – could serve as a close second.

That last point about Sam Bradford and his receivers got me to wondering about the kind of numbers Rams WRs put up during Bradford’s time there.

2010 – Danny Amendola 85-689-3 , Brandon Gibson 53-620-2 , Laurent Robinson 34-344-2

2011 – Brandon Lloyd 51-683-5 , Brandon Gibson 36-431-1 , Danario Alexander 26-431-2

2012 – Danny Amendola 63-666-3 . Brandon Gibson 51-691-5 , Chris Givens 42-698-3

2013 – Tavon Austin 40-418-4 , Chris Givens 34-569-0 , Austin Pettis 38-399-4

2014 – Kenny Britt 48-748-3 , Stedman Bailey 30-435-1 , Tavon Austin 30-242-0

Bradford missed all of 2014, but I posted the numbers anyway just so you could have some perspective on how the WRs fared with other QBs.

The biggest takeaway from this is that the Rams simply didn’t have much talent at WR. Britt was far and away the most talented pass catcher, and Bradford didn’t even get to work with him last year.

Agholor gives Bradford a receiver with a good combination of size, speed and skill. He has the speed to stretch defenses vertically, which most of the receivers above couldn’t do. Agholor has outstanding RAC skills, which most of the guys above lacked.

If Agholor wants to exceed the numbers of those receivers, he need 750 yards and 6 TDs. Amendola did have an 85-catch season, but set the NFL record for lowest YPC on that many receptions.

Can Agholor post 750 yards and 6 TDs in 2015? Very possible.

Jordan Matthews was 67-872-8 last year. And he had to deal with the fact that Jeremy Maclin was the workhorse receiver. I anticipate Matthews being the workhorse this year, but it is possible Agholor could be that guy.

I certainly feel confident that Matthews-Agholor will be the best 1-2 combo Sam Bradford ever had at WR. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s got Jason Peters at LT, Murray/Mathews/Sproles at RB and Chip Kelly calling plays. Bradford has to be pinching himself. That isn’t to say the Rams don’t have talent, but this is Bradford’s first time as part of a team where the focus is on offense and he’s part of a dynamic attack. Life is good.

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Is the O-line Okay?

Posted: May 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 246 Comments »

The Eagles didn’t draft an offensive linemen this year. Or last year. Normally that might not be a huge deal, but the Eagles have the oldest OL in the league. And they released starting RG Todd Herremans in the offseason. Clearly this is not an ideal situation.

Some critics say the Eagles neglected the OL. How is Sam Bradford supposed to stay upright, let alone play well, if he doesn’t have good blocking?

I don’t think everyone gets the overall situation.

The OL should be fine for 2015. The Eagles return 4 of 5 starters. The team is very comfortable with Allen Barbre taking over at RG. Jason Peters remains one of the better LTs in the league. Jason Kelce is becoming one of the best Centers. Lane Johnson has played very well in his 2 years. Evan Mathis is showing a bit of his age, but remains a very good starting LG. This is a talented group.

Let’s talk about Allen Barbre for a minute. He has 8 NFL starts, all at RT. He played some LT in 2013 when Peters got hurt during a game. Barbre played well, which surprised me since he was at LT. Barbre is an inconsistent pass blocker. He doesn’t have great feet but moves them well enough to be an effective pass protector. The big issue that I’ve noticed is that he isn’t aggressive enough with his hands. Instead of quickly extending his arms to get control of the rusher, Barbre keeps his arms close to his body and that gives the rusher too much space/freedom. Still, the guy has talent. Check out this shot of him as a LT in 2013.

Barbre is a better run blocker than pass protector. He comes off the ball well and has some pop. He is strong enough to get movement at the LOS. Barbre is athletic enough to block in space or up on the second level. If the Eagles run the ball as much as I anticipate, Barbre has a chance to be a solid starting RG. The Eagles are certainly confident in him.

There is no denying that it would have been nice to add players in the draft. An early pick might have challenged Barbre for the starting RG role. At the least, it would have helped the depth of the OL. As we saw last year, you can never have enough good blockers.

I do think there is some confusion in regard to last year. First, the OL didn’t play terribly. They were actually pretty good for most of the year. The first month was terrible, with things hitting rock bottom in the loss to SF. Think about the lineup for that game.

LT Jason Peters
LG Matt Tobin
OC David Molk
RG Dennis Kelly
RT Todd Herremans

That was the first start of Molk’s career. That was the first start of Tobin’s career. Kelly was seeing his first action at RG in a regular season game since 2012. Herremans was playing in an old spot at RT. Combine that information with the fact the Eagles were playing against SF’s defense and you can see why things didn’t go well.

Lane Johnson returned from suspension after that game and the line got much better.

I think people saw the Eagles as having no depth. No team can afford to have that many guys out. A lot of teams don’t have 5 good starting O-linemen, let alone multiple good backups. The Eagles had 5 good starters. They had a top backup in Barbre. They had backups with some potential (Tobin, Andrew Gardner). That’s not a bad situation at all. You just can’t handle that many injuries at a spot where continuity and chemistry are so critical.

That first month skewed some perceptions. Shady ran for 192 yards…in September. Yikes. He had no holes to work with and it showed. In the final 12 games, he averaged 93 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Pro rate that for a full season and Shady would have been up over 1,500 yards. He still finished with 1,319. The OL started doing something right once they got Johnson back and there was a bit of stability.

If the OL can stay reasonably healthy this year and Barbre plays to the level the coaches expect, the line could be one of the better units in the league. The real problem isn’t the present.

The problem is the future.

The Eagles don’t have any high-level backups ready to take over as long term replacements. Tobin is a player the team likes more than some fans realize, but that doesn’t mean he’ll pan out the way the Eagles think he can. Molk played well once he settled in last year, but he’s not a guy you want as a full-time starter. These aren’t mid-round picks just waiting their turn. These are developmental types that have more of an uphill battle to succeed.

Let’s talk about the backups the Eagles have in place.

MATT TOBIN – 6-6, 290 – IOWA – UDFA — Last summer Tobin was the team’s #6 OL. With Barbre at RT (due to Johnson’s suspension), Tobin was projected to be the top backup OT/OG. He had a terrific showing in Training Camp and the preseason. It looked like Tobin was going to develop into a quality blocker. Then he hurt his ankle in the preseason finale. That sidelined Tobin for the first 3 games. He started at LG for 7 games before suffering a concussion and losing his spot.

Tobin was up and down in his starts. He looked really good as a run blocker at times. Pass protection was another story. He struggled. Sometimes he let go of rushers too quickly. Sometimes he didn’t get his hands cleanly on them. He looked like a young player that was learning on the fly. Tobin showed enough promise that I think he could he could eventually be a starter. But he must show serious improvement as a pass blocker. This will be his third summer with the Eagles.

ANDREW GARDNER – 6-6, 308 – GA TECH – 6TH RD — Has been in the league since 2009, but saw his first real playing time last year. Started at RG and RT. Would be a very interesting developmental guy, except that he just turned 29. Time isn’t on his side. Gardner can be a very good run blocker. There were times in 2014 when he really impressed me. Played collegiately at GT, where the team runs the ball 70 times a game, so he knows a thing or two about run blocking. Pass pro is erratic. Doesn’t have ideal quickness so he’s going to guess a lot. That leaves him vulnerable to counter moves. If Gardner focuses on a DL attacking his outside shoulder, he could get beaten with a hard inside move. That said, he gets the job done most of the time. Get away from throwing 40 passes a game and Gardner can be an effective starter.

DAVID MOLK – 6-1, 295 – MICHIGAN – 7TH RD — Molk is very strong and is a good athlete. He just doesn’t have the kind of frame you want in a blocker. He is just under 6-1 and his hands are smaller than 9 inches. Molk is a good fit for the Eagles due to his athletic ability. He can pull and blocks well on the move. Fun to watch because he loves to mash on LBs and DBs when he’s blocking downfield. Isn’t just out there to run around and look pretty. Wants to hit someone. Smart player who uses angles and leverage to his advantage.

Molk is a guy you want to replace because he is a pure C. You don’t want a guy his size playing OG. If the roster was big enough to have someone whose job was just to be the backup C, Molk would be fine for the Eagles. Struggled when first on the field in 2014, but improved each game and proved to be a solid blocker. Just needed experience. Doesn’t turn 27 until December so age isn’t an issue with him.

DENNIS KELLY – 6-8, 320 – PURDUE – 5TH RD — This is the do or die year for Kelly. He showed potential as a rookie. Then got hurt in 2013 and missed the season. Played some last year, but was still new to playing in Chip Kelly’s system. Kelly started two games at LG, then one at RG. Showed some potential, but not enough to keep his job over Tobin or Gardner. Kelly needs to play more to his size. He is a big, powerful blocker who doesn’t consistently get his hands on defenders and move them around. Needs the light to come on this summer. Played well enough last summer to win a roster spot, but needs to be better this year. Kelly is only 25 years old so it would be ideal if he could have a breakout summer and show that he could be someone worth keeping around, whether as a future starter or just as a quality backup.

JULIAN VANDERVELDE – 6-2, 301 – IOWA – 5TH RD — The ultimate yo-yo guy. The Eagles let him go. The Eagles bring him back. Has never started an NFL game. I’m not sure how much he’s ever played. Doesn’t stand out in terms of size. Solid athlete, but nothing special. Game tape from preseason games isn’t compelling. Must be off the charts with intangibles for the coaches to keep him around. I’ll be shocked if he survives the summer (as an Eagle, not as a human).

KEVIN GRAF – 6-6, 309 – USC – UDFA — I had to go back and re-read my notes on him. Did you remember that when Barbre went on IR after Week 1, Graf was moved from the practice squad to the roster? I had completely forgotten that. For better or worse, the coaches like Graf. Here is something I wrote on him from last summer.

Played LT and LG. Love his effort. Plays every down as if his life depends on it. Very limited athlete. Isn’t pretty when he pulls, but he will block someone. Had a couple of nice blocks on outside plays. I don’t know if he will ever be good enough to play in the league, but it won’t be from lack of effort. Does have NFL size and strength. Footwork and agility are the big issues.

Graf was a RT in college, but the Eagles have been playing him on the left side. It will be very interesting to see if he takes a big step forward this summer or if his limited athleticism is going to be an issue he can’t overcome. Not many guys do, but there are some exceptions. Experience is a big help so knowing what he’s doing this time around should lead to better results.

BRETT BOYKO – 6-7, 301 – UNLV – UDFA — Nothing special athletically. Boyko played LG and LT for the Rebels. He does not have the footwork to play OT in the NFL. He struggled with speed rushers in college. Gets off-balance at times and will lunge at defenders. Boyko is a good run blocker. He comes off the ball quickly and is aggressive. He will win if he gets his hands on the defender cleanly. Boyko is more about effort than talent. Feels like this year’s version of Kevin Graf. Tough, experienced player. Was a QB in high school.

MIKE COCCIA – 6-3, 302 – NEW HAMPSHIRE – UDFA — Quick from snap to block. Has good feet. Likes to get shots in on DTs when he’s uncovered and can help his OG’s out. Good with his hands. Plays too high at times, but generally anchors well in pass pro. Shows good awareness. Handles stunts and blitzes well. Not a great athlete, but had a good Pro Day workout, which the Eagles attended. The Eagles stayed in touch with Coccia before the draft, showing serious interest. He has the size and skill set to play well in the Eagles offense.

JOSH ANDREWS – 6-2, 311 – OREGON STATE – UDFA — Signed with the Eagles in 2014 and earned a spot on the practice squad. Some notes from last summer.

Played LG and C. Has good feet. Does a good job of extending his arms and engaging the defender. Moves well laterally and is an active blocker. If no one is across from him, finds someone to block. Must get stronger. Doesn’t anchor as well as you’d like. Limited push at the LOS. Does a solid job when blocking on the second level.

It will be interesting to see if Andrews got stronger in the past year. He is a good athlete and has the versatility the Eagles like. Could be a bit of a sleeper candidate.

MALCOM BUNCHE – 6-6, 320 – UCLA/MIAMI – UDFA — Interesting player. Spent 4 years at Miami and then spent 2014 at UCLA as a grad student. Started at LT in 2012, was mostly a backup at RT and OG in 2013 and then started at both LT and LG in 2014. Doesn’t have the feet to play OT. Is a smart blocker who understands angles and positioning. I need to study more tape to see him as a run blocker. The Bruins didn’t always run the ball a lot. Does have heavy hands. When he gets a shot on a rusher, the guy feels it. Lost his LT and then his LG jobs in 2014. That’s not encouraging. Looked better at LG. Able to pull and block on the move. Showed some potential. Played under Jeff Stoutland at Miami. Said the team is using him at RT for now.

COLE MANHART – 6-4, 298 – NEBRASKA-KEARNEY – UDFA — I like this kid. Honors student who has already graduated. Started at LT for 3 years in college. Not a natural pass-blocker, but is technically sound with his kick-slide. Has pretty good feet. Able to engage a defender and keep his feet moving. Generates good power when he plays with good pad level. Uses his hands well. Knows his limitations as a pass blocker so tries to quickly get his hands on the rusher to keep him wide of the QB. Smart player. Excellent effort. Blocks to the echo of the whistle. Needs to get stronger. Has the build and blocking style of an Eagles OL. Played LT in the NFLPA all star game and generated some buzz out there. Looked good. Solid showing at his Pro Day. Eagles assistant OL coach Greg Austin was there since Manhart worked at out Nebraska’s Pro Day. The Eagles list him at OG for now.

My guess at the depth chart for now:

LT – Jason Peters ….. Matt Tobin ……………. Kevin Graf
LG – Evan Mathis …. Julian Vandervelde … Brett Boyko ….. Cole Manhart
OC – Jason Kelce ….. David Molk ……………. Mike Coccia
RG – Allen Barbre …. Dennis Kelly …………. Josh Andrews
RT – Lane Johnson … Andrew Gardner ….. Malcom Bunche

If the young players fail to take a step forward this summer, the team will have to aggressively address the OL next offseason. They could go after a veteran free agent to play LG. They could draft a LT to develop behind Peters. RG is a mystery because we don’t know how Barbre and possibly others will play there.

I would bet the Eagles will scour the waiver wire very closely this summer. Again, they aren’t looking for 2015 starters so much as someone to develop for the future. The team could consider trading a player for a blocker. Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin could be trade bait. There aren’t a lot of good options that I can see around the league. Alex Boone is an OG for the Niners that isn’t happy with his contract situation, but they don’t have the depth up front to deal him.

The O-line should be fine for 2015, but the future is a concern. The Eagles haven’t been able to add blockers in the last 2 drafts so unless the UDFAs and returning backups take a major step forward, the OL will become the top priority of the 2016 offseason.

* * * * *

It is getting to be that time of the year.

I’ll be writing more in-depth about the draft prospects and UDFAs.

Jimmy Bama is working on a 50,000 word piece explaining that Sam Bradford is the greatest player in modern sports history.* I’m personally torn between Babe Laufenberg and Paul Mokeski.

(* truthiness of that statement is somewhere between 98 and 0 percent)

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Are The Eagles Better?

Posted: May 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 613 Comments »

A football team can have specific goals for the offseason. The Eagles wanted to get better at CB. They wanted to add young talent to the OL. They wanted improved depth at ILB. They wanted to add at least one physical, downhill RB. And so on.

But the overall goal is simple…get better.

Did the Eagles do that? I offered my opinion in this week’s PE.com column.

The most accurate answer is that we have to wait to see this team play. But that doesn’t mean we can’t offer an opinion on the way things stand right now.

I do think the team is better. Read the column for the full breakdown on matters.

We do need some perspective as we discuss this subject. This is Year 3 for Chip Kelly. Normally at this point in a coach’s tenure you like to think he’s working toward building a title contender. That schedule is out of whack for Kelly.

He inherited a 4-12 team, but one that had a lot of talent. Kelly decided to try and win with those players rather than tearing everything down. He managed to go 10-6 in each of his first 2 seasons, but Kelly saw the team wasn’t going in the direction he hoped. This offseason he got full control and started to make drastic changes.

The biggest issue for Kelly is QB. Andy Reid was lucky enough to get the second overall pick in a year when there were lots of talented QB prospects. He chose Donovan McNabb and they had a lot of success. Kelly had the fourth overall pick in a year where OL filled 3 of the top 4 spots. Good OTs are critical, but they aren’t QBs.

Kelly tried to make it work with Michael Vick. Didn’t happen. Kelly tried with Nick Foles. The results were great in 2013, but that was a historic anomaly, as we saw last year. Kelly drafted Matt Barkley, but that hasn’t worked so far. Kelly signed Mark Sanchez. That delivered mixed results.

In March Kelly made a move that history will judge as either bold or desperate, depending on the durability of Sam Bradford. Kelly knew that Foles wasn’t the answer. Rather than sticking with him any longer, Kelly dealt for Bradford. This move is extremely risky, but Kelly felt it was worth trying because of the potential payoff. Kelly knew there was little to no chance he would get Marcus Mariota in the draft. He needed a QB…a talented QB.

I’m sure Kelly and the personnel guys looked all over the league at every possibility. Who could the Eagles sign or trade for? They had to find a player with talent, but one who also had the kind of issues that would make him available. Sam Bradford fit both categories.

If Bradford stays healthy and plays well, the Eagles could shock some people and win 11 or 12 games. If he gets hurt and Sanchez is the starter for most of the year, the Eagles are likely looking at 8-8 or 9-7.

I expect improved defense, terrific STs play and a very good run game. The passing game is a total mystery.

It would be great to find out if Kelly regrets trying to win the past 2 years. Most coaches take over and rip a team to shreds. The 2014 Eagles had 13 of 22 starters from the 2012 team. And Riley Cooper and Cedric Thornton weren’t regular starters in 2012, but were brought to the Eagles by Reid. That would take the total to 15 starters if you counted them.

The Eagles feel more and more like Chip Kelly’s team.

He’s not getting rid of Reid guys for the heck of it. Kelly is looking for players who can thrive in his systems. He gave Foles a chance. It just didn’t work. Kelly appreciated Shady McCoy’s big numbers, but hated the amount of negative runs. Sometimes you have to give a player a chance to see how he’ll do. Guys like Brent Celek and Fletcher Cox have been great fits in the new systems.

I think the Eagles are better. But they are still flawed, probably too flawed to be a legitimate title contender. Bradford is the X-factor. If he gets hurt or is simply so-so, this team will have some issues. If Bradford somehow turns out to be a perfect fit and thrives in the new system…who knows. In a fantasy world, he turns out to be Kurt Warner of 1999 or Drew Brees of 2006.

In a nightmare world, Bradford turns out to be a combination of Joey Harrington, New Coke and Google Plus. I know…the horror, the horror.

Keep your fingers crossed for the preferred outcome.

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La’el Collins

Posted: May 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 214 Comments »

More than a few people thought the Eagles should have signed La’el Collins after the draft. Heck, plenty of people thought the team should have drafted him in the 7th round.

I’m not so sure.

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com shared something interesting from an article in MMQB that I had totally missed.

In a piece by MMQB’s Robert Klemko, here is what unfolded on May 5:

“Collins’ agents eliminate 16 teams from contention and give briefings to the remaining suitors. The contract would be non-negotiable. Collins would get a guaranteed contract with no offsets, second- and third-year maximum salaries for a UDFA, and the remainder of Team X’s signing bonus cash pool. If he were ever charged or indicted in the murder investigation, the guarantees would disappear and the contract would be torn up.

The agents narrow the list to a handful of teams, and then Collins cuts it down even more. He wants to be close to home, and he doesn’t want to be anywhere cold.

He books a trip to Dallas.

So there it is. The Giants, Jets and Eagles were eliminated from contention simply because of geography. They all reside in the northeast … where it is cold. It snows in the winter. It’s bitter cold and windy. Given the choice, Collins (a Louisiana native) didn’t want any of that.

If Collins was this way during and after the draft, you wonder how he was in the pre-draft process. When he met with teams, did he tell them of his desire to play close to home? Was he awkward with teams from the northeast? More friendly with teams from the south?

That may sound absurd to some of you, but every year we hear of players who do things that are mind-blowing. Guys actually skip visits to some NFL teams.

A lot of good things were said about Collins publicly, but who knows the real truth. He may very well have been the kind of person the Eagles had no interest in, despite his talent.

I know there are reports the Eagles showed interest, but none of them were from impeccable sources. And if the Eagles did have interest, I think Chip Kelly would have been very aggressive in trying to go after Collins since all he was going to cost was money…no pick. It was also interesting the way Kelly definitively said to the media during the draft that Collins wasn’t on the Eagles draft board. Most coaches just don’t share that kind of information. Was that his way of saying “We’ve got no interest in this kid.”?

Sure feels like Dallas was very lucky to get a player like Collins the way they did. It will be interesting to see if they feel the same way in 3 or 4 years. There is no question about his talent. But does he have the right mindset for the NFL?

* * * * *

Speaking of Dallas and the Eagles…Michael Irvin is ticking off Cowboys fans by saying he favors the Eagles to win the division. His reasoning…DeMarco Murray.

Philly is the favorite in the NFC East,” Irvin said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You have to be able to, and it’s a difficult thing, to separate my head from my heart. You cannot tell me and you’ can’t convince me that you can just stick anybody back there.

“And if they [the Cowboys] had drafted a Melvin Gordon, or drafted a [Todd] Gurley, then, I’d go, ‘wait a minute, wait a minute, this might be something.’ But with Darren McFadden, and he may have some great things going, but right now I would take Philly, and then Dallas in the NFC East.”

I can absolutely see where he’s coming from.

The Dallas OL was dominant at times last year. But Murray was a huge reason the running game was so good. You can’t just stick anyone back there and get the same results. This would be different if it was Mike Shanahan, who had a track record of plugging in mid-to-late round RBs and getting great results.

Joseph Randle did average 6.7 yards per carry as a backup, but that was mainly due to having so few carries. The times when he has carried the ball 10 or more times in his 2 years in the NFL:

11 for 17
19 for 65
14 for 26
13 for 37

He was a good role player, but is he ready to be a workhorse runner?

As for Darren McFadden…he has never started more than 13 games in a season. He has only played in 16 games once, although that was last year. Murray rushed for 13 TDs last year. McFadden rushed for 13 TDs…in the last 4 years combined (almost 600 carries).

McFadden is a talented player, but is he a workhorse runner that you build your offense around? He hasn’t had 20 or more carries in the last 20 games. He’s only had consecutive games with 20 or more carries twice in his entire career.

Murray was the key to the Dallas offense last year. His running set the table for Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. Dallas might be able to replace him, but I’m not so sure based on the moves they made this offseason.

The Cowboys still have enough talent to be a winning team, but they have the feel of 8-8/9-7 and not 12-4. One of the biggest benefactors of Murray’s success was the defense. They faced the 5th fewest plays in the NFL. If their offense can’t be methodical in moving the chains and eating up the clock, they are going to expose that weak defense more and that’s good news for offenses.

It will be fun to sit back in January and see how all of these moves played out. Jerry Jones made some good moves in 2014 (drafting Zack Martin, signing Rolando McClain). We’ll see if things pan out as well this year or if 2014 was an anomaly.

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