Possible Roster Hints

Posted: June 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 80 Comments »

 

In about three months the Eagles will be cutting down to 53 players. We know the big names, but the bottom 10 to 15 spots are harder to figure. Injuries will play a major part in those decisions (think Aaron Grymes vs C.J. Smith last summer).

Dave Spadaro analyzed the Eagles 90-man roster recently and offered some possible hints.

In his section on DEs, Dave left out Alex McCalister, while praising Steven Means. Means sure sounds like he’s going to make the team. We figured Marcus Smith was headed out, but no mention of McCalister struck me as interesting. Maybe Dave overlooked him or maybe he’s heard from the coaches that McCalister is still a project and a year away from really pushing for a roster spot. We can’t make any definitive conclusions, but I thought that was interesting. The writers attending the OTAs all say McCalister doesn’t look like he added much muscle/weight and no one has singled him out for excelling in the practices.

Means has played well this year and had a strong showing last summer so he won’t get a job by default. He will have earned it.

The WR section had one interesting tidbit. Dave made mention of Marcus Johnson as a young veteran trying to continue to make an impression. No one is putting Johnson on the roster, but maybe he makes the practice squad again. I just find it interesting when we hear something about a player like Johnson who spends most of his time under the radar.

Dave noted that Joe Walker is making good progress on his way back from a torn ACL and hopes to be the backup MLB.  Walker was going to be the backup MLB last year, but tore his ACL. The Eagles would love to have him get well and win that job for this season. Walker could also help out on STs. He is a mystery man right now. Walker hasn’t practiced during the OTAs. The team is focused on getting him healthy. Training Camp is the key for him. If Walker isn’t ready, the Eagles will have to decide whether to add a veteran or come up with an internal solution for depth at MLB.

It does feel good to be focusing on the bottom of the roster and not trying to figure out who will be the QB or LT or key WR. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but the roster is headed in the right direction.

*****

2012 – Andy Reid – Michael Vick
2013 – Chip Kelly – Michael Vick
2014 – Chip Kelly – Nick Foles
2015 – Chip Kelly – Sam Bradford
2016 – Doug Pederson – Carson Wentz

That is pretty crazy. May not sound like a big deal, but think of all the Patriots success for the past 15 years. That came with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Think about a team like the Packers. In the past 25 years, they have had 4 coaches and 2 QBs.

The whole league is looking for that kind of stability. It isn’t easy to find great coaches or QBs. We don’t know if the Eagles have a great coach or great QB, but Wentz at least looks like someone you could build around and win with. The jury is still very much out on Pederson as a coach. The next couple of years will give us an idea if he can win big or not.

*****

Smart move. Training Camp can get stale when you go against your teammates over and over and over. Practicing against another team brings some life to the situation. There is a renewed sense of competition. It lets your players go against new faces and deal with different schemes.

And as Les Bowen pointed out.

Here is your chance to give Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso an extended, heartfelt welcome back to Philly.

 The Eagles will hold joint NovaCare practices with the Miami Dolphins leading up to their Aug. 24 preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field, the teams announced Thursday. Maxwell and Alonso were disastrous Chip Kelly additions to the 2015 Eagles, whom Howie Roseman traded away last year as part of the maneuvering to move up to draft Carson Wentz.

So now we’ll presumably see Maxwell, a cornerback, and Alonso, a middle linebacker, defending Wentz’s receivers, in more than just a cameo preseason game appearance.

Alonso and Maxwell got booed in Philly in 2015, but they were Eagles at the time. Always more fun to boo opponents than your own players.

_


Week 3 OTA Roundup – Pt. 2

Posted: June 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 68 Comments »

The Eagles let the media watch Thursday’s practice so let’s find out what our intrepid reporters saw.

We’ll start with Jeff McLane.

1. The Eagles had a spirited session. Typically, the media attends the last practice of OTAs on Friday, but the team moved up access a day. Lucky for us. There were plenty of highlights, most of the positive ones on the defensive side of the ball. OTAs are supposed to have no contact, but the Eagles – especially Jim Schwartz’s troops – appeared to push the boundaries. And when that happens, things tend to get a little chippy. For instance, midway through practice, center Jason Kelce took defensive tackle Gabe Wright to the ground. Kelce said something like “My bad.” But after Wright, who was signed earlier this week, was helped to his feet, he slapped Kelce across the helmet. It wasn’t a love tap. Kelce barked back, “That’s [expletive] up,” and walked toward Wright and had some words. There wasn’t further contact, as Kelce’s set was done, but the veteran center was clearly upset. Later, after he finished “blocking” Wright, Kelce had a little more to say to the former Lion and Brown, as did coach Doug Pederson during a break. Wright took more first-team repetitions than usual after Destiny Vaeao left with an apparent injury. Tim Jernigan was back at practice after leaving early Monday with an ankle sprain.

I love hearing about things getting highly competitive and a little emotional. You don’t want practice to turn into a bunch of ridiculous fights because that accomplishes nothing. You do want players fired up and really pushing each other. That’s how you get better and get ready for the regular season. Spring football is mainly about coaches teaching specifics and players learning their positions. Still,  you like to hear the players are really competing. That’s a good sign.

2. Carson Wentz might want to forget this day. He and the offense struggled throughout. Maybe it had something to do with the defense pushing the envelope, but the quarterback had trouble hooking up with his receivers. He had eight straight passes during one 7-on-7 set that were incomplete, although two were dropped. He overthrew a covered Alshon Jeffery and threw low to a crossing Darren Sproles, safety Malcolm Jenkins broke up a pass to Zach Ertz, Jalen Mills knocked a toss to Torrey Smith away, and Wentz threw too inside to Trey Burton. The drops came when Wendell Smallwood looked away on a short flick and when Nelson Agholor couldn’t hang onto a BB in the back of the end zone.

3. Other Wentz lowlights: He tossed an ill-advised bomb to a covered Jeffery that cornerback Patrick Robinson easily knocked away. He threw an interception right into the hands of linebacker Najee Goode. He was nearly picked off when he went to a not-even-looking Sproles in the flat. Wentz connected with Agholor on a 50-plus-yard “touchdown,” but the ball was short and was caught only after the ball was tipped into the receiver’s hands. Wentz’s best moment came when he lofted a strike to a crossing Ertz. It’s way, way, way – WAY – too early to hit the panic button on Wentz. But he hasn’t been sharp – at least for the last three practices I’ve attended. The Eagles still have one more OTA and three minicamp practices next week before breaking for the summer.

Practice is always awkward to evaluate. If the defense is better, is that because they were great or the offense stunk? It sounds like the defense played really well today, but also that the offense had some issues. That’s okay. The defense has more talent and should be ahead of the offense at this point. That said, you would like the offense to have a bit more success than what Jeff wrote about.

It is good for Wentz to deal with some pressure. That can help him to get ready for the summer and the regular season. Sam Bradford didn’t have to deal with much pressure a couple of years ago and that showed in September. You could tell he was adjusting to game speed. All QBs are going to struggle when pressure gets to them, but good ones find a way to make some plays and fight through it.

Jeff has plenty of other good nuggets in his piece.

*****

Here is your highlight of the day.

https://twitter.com/Eagles/status/872844012826353665

That’s better than Megan Fox feeding me chocolate pudding while watching a Smokey & the Bandit marathon on AMC. Simply glorious.

*****

Jimmy Bama wrote a lot about the rookies.

Derek Barnett was in the backfield regularly, battling against Lane Johnson. The rookie was clearly getting the best of Johnson working at RDE, with Johnson at LT. Barnett has looked good all throughout OTAs and is looking like a candidate to start early in his career.

It isn’t time to fit Barnett for a gold jacket quite yet, but it is great to hear the young man is playing so well. He could offer a boost to the pass rush, and help out the CBs in a big way as well. The Eagles have good OL so if Barnett is beating them, that shows serious skill/talent. If he was lighting up Demetress Bell, that would be a different story.

Rasul Douglas didn’t have any really notable plays to report today, however, he was working with the first-team offense ahead of Patrick Robinson. This is a new development. Previously, Douglas was coming as an extra defensive back as a nickel, playing outside with Jalen Mills kicking inside. Today was the first media-attended practice that Douglas was with the starters in the base defense.

Douglas is competing for a starting role. He’s got a long way to go to win the job, but the fact he’s gotten into the mix is a positive sign. Doug Pederson praised Douglas in his press conference today. There is no question that CB is the weakest position on the team. Douglas has the talent to be a solid starting corner in the league. He only played one full season at West Virginia so I wasn’t sure if he would be able to thrive right away. It seems like Douglas has adjusted to the pro game quickly and is ready to push for a starting spot.  Read the rest of this entry »


Taking a Chance

Posted: June 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 53 Comments »

Chance Warmack was once a Top 10 pick. His size, power and athleticism impressed coaches and scouts all over the league. Warmack was expected to develop into a big time RG and Pro Bowl type player.

That didn’t happen.

Not even close, to be honest.

Paul Domowitch has a good piece up on Warmack signing with the Eagles so that he can be reunited with Jeff Stoutland (his college OL coach) to try and get his career back on track.

“The NFL is a relation-based business,” Warmack said. “When you’ve been with a guy for two years prior to coming to the NFL and had the success we had together, it was a no-brainer (signing with the Eagles).

“The offensive line is a developmental position. You can’t just jump in and play at a high level. You have to develop. I know what he gets out of players. He got a lot out of me at Alabama and he’s going to get a lot out of me here.”

Can a coach really make that much of a difference? Yes, but it doesn’t always happen.

Domo pointed out that Evan Mathis was a journeyman player until he got to the Eagles and was coached by Howard Mudd. That is a great example. Mathis was a perfect fit for Mudd’s system and played at a Pro Bowl level (I think he might be the first member of the PFF Hall of Fame).

There is a bid difference, though. Mathis had some odd circumstances and just couldn’t seem to get on the field regularly until he hit Philly. Warmack started for 3 years in Tennessee. He had the skills to play well for the Titans. He just didn’t do that.

Warmack does have talent.

If you put on some game tape from 2015, you will see talent. Warmack is big and powerful. He has quick feet. There are times when he looks nimble and shows good movement skills. He flashes big time ability on some plays.

Warmack also has major issues. He is on the ground way too much. Part of that is because he gets off balance way too easily. Sometimes he forgets to move his feet. There are some plays when he doesn’t use his hands well.

If you only watched his highlights, Warmack would look like a solid starter. If you watch his lowlights, you see a player who looks like a confused rookie. That’s not good for a player with plenty of experience. Can that be fixed?

Training Camp will be huge for Warmack. He needs to show he can be physical and beat up on defenders. He then has to show he can also pass protect well and be counted on to play with some consistency. Stoutland has a big challenge ahead of him, but Warmack has NFL talent. If Stoutland can “fix him”, Warmack could turn out to be a great signing.

I just wouldn’t bet a lot of money on that happening.

One thing that does help Warmack is that he seems to understand he is headed in the wrong direction and he’s got to play much better to save his career. He could have gone elsewhere for a bit more money, but he came to Philly to work with Stout and to try to fix his game. That’s smart for a young player.

*****

 

Hicks should be even better his year. This will be his second year at MLB in the Eagles 4-3 scheme.

Of course, you could argue that Eagles CBs were so bad that QBs simply quit throwing over the middle and attacked the outside over and over.

_


Second Thoughts

Posted: June 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 62 Comments »

This will be Darren Sproles final season in the NFL. Unless it won’t.

You can understand where Sproles might have an open mind at this point. It is spring time. His body is healthy and feels good. There is optimism about the upcoming season. He’s got some talented players around him.

The NFL season is a marathon. It is a war of attrition. Players wear down, mentally, physically and emotionally. It doesn’t matter if you are 23 or 33. The NFL is tough. Players are, as the great Lili Von Shtupp would say, “tired”.

Sproles may feel completely different when December and January roll around. He might be ready to head off to the sunset. For now, he’s smart to keep an open mind. See how the season goes. See how he feels. Play football if it is fun, but walk away if the grind is just too much.

I guess there is also the question of how Sproles would fit in next season. We’ll have to wait and see how Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey pan out. If they play as the Eagles hope, Sproles would be a luxury. If those young guys struggle, the Eagles may be begging Sproles to stick around for one more season.

Stay tuned.

*****

I didn’t get a chance to touch on this yet.

Wright replaces LB Steven Daniels, who was cut last week. I hated to see Daniels go, but the first rule of the NFL is you must be healthy enough to play.

The Eagles needed help at DT with Beau Allen injured. And then Tim Jernigan got hurt on Monday. It turned out to be good that the team added Wright to help eat up some practice reps. From PE.com.

A fourth-round pick of the Detroit Lions out of Auburn in 2015, the 6-2, 284-pound Wright has played in 12 games over the past two seasons with the Lions and the Cleveland Browns. He played in seven games as a rookie, but landed with the Browns in 2016 and suited up for five contests while bouncing back and forth between the active roster and practice squad.

At Auburn, Wright played in all 52 games during his four-year career. His best season as a Tiger was in 2013 when he had 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Wright does fit the scheme. He is a 1-gap DT. To be anything more than a camp body Wright will have to play his butt off and impress the heck out of the coaches.

*****

Practice leftovers

  • Dorial Green-Beckham had his best day on Monday. He’s had a tough spring and might be feeling the pressure of a now crowded WR spot. DGB has a rare combination of size, skill and athleticism. He has big potential. The problem is that potential only gets you into the league. It won’t keep you around forever. DGB has to step his game up and force the coaches to want to keep him. If he can’t handle the pressure of a battle for a roster spot, then you sure as heck don’t want him playing for you in a big game. A lot of people have already written him off. That’s understandable. There is enough time left for him to do something about that, but he’s got to build off what he did Monday and continue to get better. Anything less and he’ll unemployed by Labor Day.
  • The Eagles played Brandon Graham at RDE and Vinny Curry at LDE on Monday. This isn’t a huge deal, but it is interesting that they are moving the DEs around to find the best combination of players and spots. I think Graham and Curry are both natural LDEs. Derek Barnett was predominantly a RDE in college. It would be great if he could step up and either win that job or play well enough to earn a lot of snaps there.
  • Brandon Lee Gowton noted that Steven Means was a DT for a rep and made a play that impressed the coaches. Means is a fringe guy, but he is doing exactly what you want. He lines up wherever the coaches tell him and plays 100 mph on every snap. Too many young/fringe players don’t get this. You have to find any and every way to impress the coaches. Even if they have to cut you, make them not want to.

_


Week 3 OTA Roundup

Posted: June 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 92 Comments »

There was another practice session open to the media so let’s see what the local writers had to say about the Eagles.

We’ll open with Jimmy Bama.

Carson Wentz was up and down today. Early in practice, he had a really nice play when he stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, then moved to his left and threw the ball on the run deep down the field complete to Alshon Jeffery. He also had good, strong throws to Torrey Smith on the sideline, and in between a few defenders to Nelson Agholor.

Wentz also had his bad moments, throwing his share of inaccurate passes. His lowlight on the day was a badly overthrown pass outside the hash on the left side of the field that was easily picked off by Jaylen Watkins.

It would be great if Wentz looked like Tom Brady out there, just throwing perfect pass after perfect pass. That’s just not reality. He’s a young player adjusting to new receivers and working on his mechanics. There are going to be ups and downs. This is the time of year for him to work through those issues. It is good that Wentz does seem to make a highlight play or two at every practice. The talent is there.

Can a new assistant coach really make a difference?

Mike Groh was getting on the receivers most of the day. During drills, he had the following exchange with rookie UDFA (and converted quarterback) Greg Ward:

Groh: “Look at where you are!”

Ward: (Looks down, realizes he’s lined up offsides and moves back)

Groh: “Is this press?!?”

Ward: “Yeah.”

Groh: “Is this press?!?!?!”

Ward: “Yeah.”

Groh: “Then why are you bent over like that?”

Ward: (Gets into better position to fend off press coverage).

There’s a lot of that going on with Groh. He seems very detail oriented and doesn’t let his players get away with getting those details wrong.

I love that nugget. A good coach sees everything and is trying to teach his players to focus on the details. Greg Ward is a UDFA who played QB last year at Houston. There is every reason that Groh could be easy on him to try and build the young guy’s confidence. The heck with that. Groh is going to push his players to do their job well. It doesn’t matter if that’s the Pro Bowl receiver or the UDFA rookie. Groh has high expectations for his players and he is pushing them. This group could have used that last year, but better late than never.  Read the rest of this entry »