The Plan

Posted: February 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 265 Comments »

I can’t wait until the summer. First, it will be warm and fun to go outside. Children will run through the park, eating Funyuns and telling stories about the horrible Jimmy Bama monster that lives in the woods and will attack anyone who doesn’t love stick-figure drawings.

We’ll also have a series of signings and draft picks to review. We’ll have a better feel for how Chip Kelly did in his first turn at running the personnel side of things.

Pablo Torre wrote a great piece on Sixers GM Sam Hinkie for ESPN. I don’t know what you think of Hinkie. I find him utterly fascinating. Regardless of what we think, one thing we know for a fact…he has a plan. You may not like the plan. You may like his ideas, but question whether the plan will work. But the plan is there.

I don’t pretend to know enough about the NBA to know if the plan will work. I still think of Steve Mix and Clint Richardson as Sixers so that should tell you just how out of touch I am.

I do wonder if Chip Kelly has any type of plan for building the Eagles roster. Some guys believe in having a specific plan. Others have a more casual plan. Some simply focus on talent.

Jimmy Johnson loved trading back in the draft to load up on picks. He felt that helped his odds. He loved having big draft classes if he could help it.

Ernie Accorsi focused on pass rushers and the QB when building a roster. This worked well when putting together the Giants title team of 2007 (most of the guys were his players even though he retired prior to that year).

Ozzie Newsom and the Ravens seem to keep things simple and focus on finding the best players.

All of these strategies helped build good teams and champions. You don’t need to have an in-depth Hinkie type of plan.

I tend to like GMs/coaches that go into a draft with a plan. You can’t force things, but you can have specific goals. Ron Wolf went into the 1999 draft wanting big CBs to help deal with Randy Moss, who had just come into the league and looked dominant. Wolf also wanted to draft a QB, either to develop as a player or asset. He also liked taking chances on small school guys late in the draft.

1st round CB Antwaun Edwards was more role player than starter. 3rd rounder Mike McKenzie became a very good starter. QB Aaron Brooks was a 4th round pick. A year later Wolf dealt him to the Saints for a 3rd rounder (and a couple of forgettable players were involved). In the 7th round, Wolf took WR Donald Driver from Alcorn State. Wolf’s ideas didn’t work all the time, but they certainly did that year.

Based on Kelly’s talks with the media, you would think he would be the type not to have a specific plan. I can see him saying “Let’s go find some good players.” But Kelly doesn’t open up for the media very often. We might get simplistic soundbites, but they may not accurately reveal what he’s thinking.

As long as Chip gets good players, I’ll be a happy camper.

I will be curious to find out his thoughts and ideas behind the picks. It doesn’t mean anything significant, but I like to know how the Eagles drafter thinks. I understood Big Red for most of his career (although he got different at the end). I had some feel for Howie Roseman and what he liked. I’m back to square one with Kelly.

Can’t wait to see what he does…as long as he gets it right.

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QB Intrigue Continues

Posted: February 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 369 Comments »

The problem with picking 20th in the draft is that you are at the mercy of those picking ahead of you. While some writers and draft analysts make a case for Marcus Mariota falling, that seems less likely with every day that goes by. I wouldn’t even bet a half-full can of lukewarm PBR that he gets anywhere close to pick 20 at this point.

I wrote about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the first QB domino to fall in my PE.com column.

You have 32 teams making plans. You also have 32 teams making moves. One move by one team can have an effect on many others and change all kinds of plans. That may have happened this week when Tampa Bay cut veteran quarterback Josh McCown. I’m sure plenty of fans thought “big deal” when they saw that news. But it actually could be a big deal.

The Bucs are now down to two quarterbacks, Mike Glennon and Seth Lobato. Until this very moment, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Lobato. Glennon has had some success as a starter, but hasn’t shown enough that you want to go into a season with him as “the guy.” The Buccaneers just happen to have the first pick in the draft. With McCown, it seemed likely that they would draft a quarterback. Without him, it is almost impossible to think they won’t.

The Bucs could be choosing Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston first overall. I find it hard to believe that the Bucs would take Winston, with all of his off-field baggage. I think Mariota is going first overall. A lot of Eagles fans would love to see Mariota reunited with Chip Kelly. I’m sure Kelly would love that too. Even if the Bucs pull a shocker and take Winston first, there are several other teams that need a quarterback in the top 10.

Now comes this report.

Huh? Even if the Titans love Zach Mettenberger and want him to be the starter, they should be talking up the QBs so that teams will want to move up. Maybe they’re just being honest because they covet a defensive prospect like Leonard Williams or Randy Gregory, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t try to generate interest in your pick to help trade value. The way to do that is talk about QBs as a legitimate possibility.

And then I saw this interesting nugget about a Top 10 team…Jeff Fisher is letting Sam Bradford help pick out the offensive coaching staff. Kinda odd.

Many of us assumed Bradford would be cut. He can’t stay healthy. He’s been up and down for the Rams. Why not cut him and move on?

One possible take is that Fisher doesn’t think either QB is getting to pick 10. If Mariota goes #1 to Tampa, the Skins, Jets and Bears (teams 5-7) could still have interest in Winston. Fisher is hedging his bets and making nice with Bradford just in case. I still think Fisher would covet either of the top QBs.

No matter how you slice this, it doesn’t sound good for the Eagles.

If Mariota goes #1 (and I think he will), you have a tough decision on Winston. I don’t want anything to do with him. I doubt Jeff Lurie would either. Sure, the Eagles went after Mike Vick when he was at rock bottom, but he was also a bargain in terms of cost. The Eagles could cut him at a moment’s notice because they had nothing invested in him. Winston would cost a 1st round pick. He wouldn’t make huge money, but wouldn’t be cheap per se.

If Winston goes #1, you have a slew of Top 10 teams ready to take Mariota. I could even see the Giants considering him. Eli is in the final year of his contract and he’s not getting any younger.

I think it is important that Chip Kelly and Ed Marynowitz figure out other QB plans. Do they draft Brett Hundley? Or Bryce Petty? Or Garrett Grayson? Or do they take a flier on a small school guy like Brandon Bridge or Bryan Bennett?

The Eagles will talk to teams about potential deals in case Mariota does fall, but don’t get your hopes up. Look at other draft prospects. Or look at NFL guys. Do you bring back Mark Sanchez? Colt McCoy is an interesting name on the market. There is some talk that KC could cut Chase Daniel. He could be an interesting option.

You can also hope like heck that Nick Foles takes a big step forward. He’s hard working and has to be incredibly motivated by his mediocre play and then watching the final 8 games.

Just in case, someone make burnt offerings to the Football Gods. Better safe than sorry.

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Q & A

Posted: February 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 97 Comments »

I’ve gotten quite a few questions in recent days and haven’t had a chance to answer them. So let’s do that here.

* Someone in the Safety post asked my thoughts on the play on Malcolm Jenkins. They thought ripped on Jenkins in a recent podcast. So what are my true thoughts on him?

I don’t recall my exact words in the podcast, but I think I was trying to point out that Jenkins had not been a Pro Bowl player in 2014. Early in the year Jimmy Bama had listed him as a possible Pro Bowler. Jenkins had several INTs at that point and was playing very well. He did have a good year for the Eagles, but did not play at a Pro Bowl level. There were too many dropped INTs that came in crucial moments. Jenkins hit and tackled well all year. He struggled in man coverage against WRs, as most Safeties do. I thought he was up and down as a centerfielder, although he didn’t do that a lot.

Jenkins gave the Eagles their first legitimately good Safety play in a while. I never expected him to come in and be Dawk Jr. Jenkins is a good player, but there is nothing special about him. I’m very happy with him and hope he’s here for the next few years.

* Did your post on the Safeties mean that the Eagles need a great player to go with Jenkins?

No. Great Safeties are hard to find. The Eagles need a good starter to pair with Jenkins, who is also a good starter. I’d love for the Eagles to find a great S, but that’s a heck of a lot easier said than done.

* In my post on Brett Hundley I talked about how he hadn’t done anything special in college (big wins, key comebacks, Jan 1 bowls, etc). Someone pointed out Mariota was similar to Hundley in this regard.

I strongly disagree. Mariota led Oregon to the Fiesta Bowl as a Redshirt Freshman and they beat #12 Kansas State 35-17. The Ducks finished the year #2 overall. This year Mariota got Oregon to the national title game. He won the Heisman Trophy. This year Oregon hosted #7 Michigan State. The Spartans got out to a 27-18 lead in the 3rd Qtr. The Ducks scored 28 straight points and won 46-27. MSU finished the season as the #8 defense in the nation.

Mariota had better coaching and better talent around him. That has to be factored into the accomplishments. But that also affects the kind of player someone becomes. Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler were talented SEC QBs. Manning was surrounded by NFL talent while Cutler carried Vandy on his back. Cutler took a beating as he played behind a mediocre OL. You can see pocket awareness issues to this day. Manning had a great OL. He learned to be comfortable in the pocket. You still see that to this day.

Mariota was placed in a favorable situation and delivered great results. Oregon did amazing things on offense. They won big games in the conference, out of conference and went 3-0 in bowls. At his best, Mariota was a dominant player.

There are still questions about how Mariota will translate to the NFL. No one will dispute there are concerns with that, and that some of those concerns are similar to the ones with Hundley. I do think Mariota was a better college player and is more likely to pan out in the NFL.

* Several of you asked about Safety Ron Parker as a potential free agent target.

I have not studied Parker’s tape. He will turn 28 this year and is coming off a breakout season. Guys like that do make me nervous. Here is a KC article pointing out his strengths and flaws.

If the Eagles go FA, Rahim Moore from Denver would make a lot of sense. He is a natural FS. He also played for Cory Undlin last year, who is now the Eagles DB coach.

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Needed: One Safety

Posted: February 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 178 Comments »

Tim Hauck. Damon Moore. Blaine Bishop. Michael Lewis. Quintin Mikell. Those are the men who played opposite of Brian Dawkins from 1999-2008. None of them was great, but they played on some great defenses (2001, 2002, 2004, 2008).

As great as it would be to have a dynamic duo like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor or Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters, you can have a good defense with one good Safety and one solid starter.

Part of the problem in recent years is that you had Quintin Demps, Macho Harris, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jarrad Page and Patrick Chung trying to help each other succeed. They had no one to lean on. That’s why it was so important for the Eagles to sign Malcolm Jenkins last year and see him play well. He finally gives the Eagles a Safety they can build around.

Clearly he’s not in the same class as Dawkins, but Jenkins is a reliable veteran player. He’s going to do the right things on the court and can help the other Safety off the field. Knowing how to train and study is important for young players trying to develop.

Here are some Jenkins highlights from last year.

The Eagles must find someone to play opposite of him. This could be in free agency or the draft. But the good news is that the Eagles do have one starting spot set and that player can help the new guy.

Last year at this time the Eagles had Earl Wolff and Nate Allen atop the depth chart. That wasn’t awesome. Seeing Jenkins in place makes the task of improving the Safety position seem a heck of a lot easier.

Could this be the year the Eagles get back to having a pair of Safeties they like? Seems like forever since that has been the case.

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More On Hundley

Posted: February 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 225 Comments »

I hope everyone enjoyed Tyler Aston’s take on UCLA QB Brett Hundley. Very good stuff.

I have very mixed feelings on Brett Hundley. He has the potential to be a good NFL starter, but I can also see him struggling to ever play well. I think he made a huge mistake by not going to the Senior Bowl. He could have helped himself a lot, on and off the field.

Hundley certainly looks the part of an NFL QB. He’s big and strong. He runs well and has a good arm. The problem is that I have questions in the 2 most important categories – accuracy and decision-making. UCLA ran a really simple pass offense that had Hundley throwing to his primary target most of the time. And many of those plays were at or behind the line of scrimmage. We don’t have enough information to know that Hundley can consistently understand coverages and read through his progressions.

There are times when Hundley makes great throws and really looks the part. He will also throw some poor passes and look awkward at times. His pocket awareness ranges from mediocre to awful. He had poor blocking at UCLA, but didn’t help matters. There were many times when he seemed oblivious to the rushers closing in on him. You love a QB that can stay focused on his receivers and not the rusher, but this went beyond that. Hundley seemed clueless that he was about to be hit a lot of the time. That’s not good.

I can see where some teams will have a 1st round grade on Hundley, while others won’t have him on their draft boards at all.

Aside from skills, it is hard for me to make a compelling case for Hundley. Tom Brady was 20-5 as a starter. I watched him lead Michigan to a late come-from-behind win over Penn State in 1999. I saw him beat Alabama 35-34 in OT in the 2000 Orange Bowl. I saw Drew Brees lead Purdue to the Rose Bowl and play some epic games against Big Ten powers. I saw Cam Newton carry Auburn on his back to a national title. I saw RG3 do some great things at Baylor and really put that program on the map. I watched Colin Kaepernick lead Nevada to upsets over Top 10 Boise State teams in consecutive years. And on and on and on.

Hundley? He helped UCLA win games and go to bowls, but didn’t do anything special. I’m not saying the guy had to play in a BCS game or win the Heisman, but I don’t know if there was ever a really compelling game or part of a game for Hundley. He was a good player on a good team. UCLA went 29-11 in his 3 years. They swept USC, but never beat Oregon or Stanford. They played 3 so-so bowl games and went 2-1.

Simply put, I never watched Hundley play and said “That guy is definitely an NFL starter.”

I do like Hundley more than EJ Manuel, who went in the mid-1st. Hundley reminds me of a better passing version of Kaepernick, who went in the early 2nd. Hundley has a chance to go early. But I still struggle to say that I think he’ll succeed in the NFL.

Does Hundley fit the Eagles? Maybe. He would be the kind of running threat Chip Kelly would like in this offense. I like his downfield accuracy, which is helpful in keeping the defense honest and opening up the running game. Hundley is comfortable with the short, quick throws that Kelly likes to use. My question is how he’ll handle 3rd/8 in the 4th Qtr when the Eagles are down a TD. Can he sit in the pocket, read the defense, find the correct receiver and then get him the ball? I have very serious doubts about that.

Interviews are going to be critical for Hundley. He’s got to convince NFL teams that he can run an NFL offense and be a consistently good passer.

I keep going back and forth on Hundley. As of right now, I’d prefer the Eagles not draft him. If you could invest a 3rd round pick in him and try to develop Hundley, that would be one thing. Pick 20? No thanks.

Kelly might feel differently. He used a 4th round pick to draft a Senior QB from a team that used a pro style offense. Matt Barkley has not panned out so far. Hundley is the anti-Barkley. Hundley has the size and skills of an NFL starter. Kelly wouldn’t have to worry about his raw tools. Kelly would simply have to coach the bad habits out of Hundley and develop him as a passer.

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