Young vs Old

Posted: May 8th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

One of the biggest challenges for any coach or GM is deciding between an up and coming player and a proven veteran. Teams want young players. They are cheaper and they have more of a future. Veterans on short term deals are disposable band aids. While not ideal, they can get the job done.

The Eagles have signed some band aid veterans already.

Andrew Sendejo
Vinny Curry
Zach Brown

More could be on the way. Or Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson could decide to see what some of the young players can do. I wrote about some young players who could step up this year for PE.com. I focused on some spots where there are enough young players that there will be good competition. And that’s key. You never want to hand a young player a job. They have to earn it.

Avonte Maddox and Kamu Grugier-Hill were young guys who emerged last year. They proved to be important for the defense, as both safety and LB had to deal with injuries.

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles give Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller a chance to show what they can do or if the team wants a sure thing at DE and goes for a veteran. All three of those players are young, athletic and have decent size. You can argue that there is a good chance one of them will prove to be at least an effective role player.

The flip side is that the Eagles scheme is built on D-linemen who can pressure the passer. If the pass rush struggles, the defense is going to have major issues. DE is a critical spot for the Eagles. Can you take a chance there?

The Eagles have very little depth at C/G. That feels like a spot where they need to add someone. One of the problems is that there aren’t good options. The OL market wasn’t great to start with and there are slim pickings left. This is a spot where the Eagles have to look long and hard at their internal options.

Matt Pryor – Second year OL is back. Played a lot of RG last summer. Up and down.

H. Vaitai – Pure speculation, but the arrival of Andre Dillard at OT could mean the team shifts Vaitai inside this summer to see what he can do.

Anthony Fabiano – Athletic player who is on his seventh team. That means he probably isn’t a player you want to pencil in for anything.

Ryan Bates – UDFA who played OT and OG at Penn State. Athletic lineman who could play G or C in the NFL.

Iosua Opeta – UDFA who played LT for Weber State. Projects to OG in the NFL. Very strong upper body.

Nate Herbig – UDFA who was a massive RG for Stanford. Will stay at OG.

Keegan Render – UDFA who played G and C at Iowa. Technically sound player with good movement skills. Nothing special physically.

Jeff Stoutland is a good OL coach and those players all have ability, but none of them is a sure thing at G or C. You could go get John Sullivan or John Greco for a season, but those guys are in their mid-30’s and they are on the market for a reason. They lost starting jobs because their play is declining.

Why not bring back Wiz? That is possible, but he wasn’t exactly great last year when he had to take over at C. Issac Seumalo played well at LG. He could slide into C if needed, but you want him at LG for now.

The Eagles need some cheap depth for the future so there really is something to be said for letting Stoutland work with the guys listed above to see what he can do. Jason Kelce was a sixth round pick in 2011 and nobody expected him to turn into the player he did. The Eagles have had UDFAs like Artis Hicks and Jamaal Jackson develop into solid starters. Right now the Eagles just need depth. They need these players to be effective backups.

It will be interesting to see what other moves Roseman and the Eagles make. They have the flexibility to do a lot, but they may genuinely want to see what the young guys can do. If you can get some of this young talent to pan out, it really does help you long term.

*****

I wasn’t huge on Matt Pryor coming out of TCU, but he did have some people who loved him.

This is a huge summer for Pryor. With Brandon Brooks hurt, Pryor should get a lot of reps and he’ll have a chance to impress the coaches.

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No Such Thing

Posted: May 7th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have a good roster. A very good roster, actually.

There are multiple Pro Bowl players. There are playmakers on both sides of the ball. There are good STers. There is also good depth.

But…this isn’t a perfect roster. There is no such thing in the NFL.

Every team has holes.

No one has enough resources to get every player they want. There is also the problem that good players don’t want to be relegated to a small role. We see that with Chris Long right now. He loves the Eagles and Philly, but doesn’t want to see his snaps go down. He wants to be on the field.

If the Eagles lose him, they could go get another veteran DE. Ziggy Ansah is the name everyone mentions, but would Ansah want to come to Philly to be the #3 DE? Ideally he wants to sign somewhere to play a decent amount to he can hit the market next March and try to get a solid contract. If he comes to Philly to play a limited role, his chances of getting the big deal go down.

The Eagles don’t need a standout #3 DE because Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are good players. But if one of them gets hurt, watch out. And that’s the catch-22 of roster building. You want as many good players as possible, but trying to find roles for everyone is hard…unless there are injuries.

The Cowboys won three Super Bowls from 1992-1995. They never had a good replacement for Emmitt Smith. But they never needed a backup for any extended time. The Eagles have had so-so RBs in recent years and they haven’t been able to keep them healthy.

Howie Roseman tries to plan for as many contingencies as possible, but you just can’t have everything covered. At a certain point, you need guys to stay healthy. And you need guys to play up to their ability.

One of the tricky parts to all of this is knowing when to flinch. For my money, the Ravens are generally the most patient organization in the league. They can have a hole at a certain spot and wait and wait and then fill it later than you would expect. The problem is that sometimes they don’t get the hole taken care of.

We all wondered what the Eagles would do at RB. They didn’t pursue Tevin Coleman. Or Mark Ingram. I don’t think they ever got too serious with looking at Duke Johnson. Howie didn’t panic and just go sign someone. He was patient. He ended up trading a late pick for Jordan Howard. Roseman then drafted Miles Sanders. That gives the Eagles a good 1-2 punch at RB. And we’ll see what happens with Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams.

What is the difference in patient and negligent?

That is a brutally tough question. The Eagles have an All-Pro center in Jason Kelce. They don’t have a good backup behind him. Isaac Seumalo could slide to the middle, but the Eagles don’t have a great set of guards right now. The team signed some talented UDFAs and will take a long look at them. It is possible that the analytics staff told Roseman this was the way to go. Don’t draft someone early, sign multiple good UDFAs and see what happens. Or it could be that there just weren’t good options.

The draft class only had a few centers with draftable grades. Don’t panic and waste a pick on a mediocre prospect. Sign a UDFA.

The Eagles might end up going for a veteran to play C/G. There aren’t great options, but it would be nice to have some experience for that area. At the same time, it would be nice to check out the rookies and get a feel for them. If they all struggle, go get your veteran. If one of the rookies shows real promise, hold on adding the veteran and give the kid a chance. You want cheap, young backups when you can find them.

Roseman was patient at RB and came away with a pair of players the team likes in Howard and Sanders.

Roseman was patient at LB and came away with Zach Brown.

Roseman was patient at DT and came away with Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway.

Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t make good players magically appear. I’m sure Jernigan talked to a lot of other teams before re-signing. He obviously didn’t get the deal he was looking for. Ridgeway came available on draft weekend so the Eagles jumped on him. Maybe the team is waiting for May 7 before pursuing more free agents. Or maybe they just don’t like the options right now. We’ll find out soon enough.

The Eagles could still possibly add a DE, C/G or some other spot they feel could be strengthened. As Roseman loves to point out, they are always looking to add talent.

That never stops.

Still, no matter how many moves Roseman makes and no matter how strong some parts of the team looks, there will always be holes.

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KGH

Posted: May 5th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on KGH

The Eagles claimed Kamu Grugier-Hill off waivers in September of 2016. Here is what I wrote about him at the time.

Kamu Grugier-Hill is a really interesting player. He played LB in college, but I projected him to Safety in the NFL. I had him rated as a 4th round prospect. The Pats drafted him in the 6th round and decided to play him as a LB/STer. Grugier-Hill reportedly did a great job on STs this preseason. He is small at 6-2, 215, but is athletic, physical and tackles well. He was a great STer in college so he really understands the importance of that part of football.

Good thing the Eagles didn’t listen to me. KGH is definitely meant to be a LB and not a safety.

Coming into the 2018 season, KGH had a total of 10 career tackles. He was a very good STs player, but complete unknown on defense. Free agent Corey Nelson proved to be a complete bust so KGH finally got his shot on defense. And he played well.

He finished the year with 10 starts, 45 tackles, 5 TFLs, an INT, a FF, a sack and two pass break-ups. Beyond the numbers, KGH showed some real flashes.

The question now is whether KGH can take another big step forward. He has talent and experience this time around.

It would certainly help the Eagles a lot for KGH to take his game to the next level. It would mean a lot to him, since KGH is in a contract year. I’m excited to see if he can build off last year and be the Eagles #2 LB. He has the talent.

KGH will be pushed by Nate Gerry, L.J. Fort and the other young LBs on the roster.

The Eagles have not had a lot of luck with developing LBs. Something always seems to go wrong. Injuries derailed Jordan Hicks and Stewart Bradley. Scheme fit hurt Mychal Kendricks. Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, Moises Fokou and Jamar Chaney just weren’t talented enough.

I’m still not sure about Chris Gocong. He really did seem like everything Jim Johnson wanted in a 4-3 SAM.

While the Eagles didn’t draft Grugier-Hill, it would be great if he turned out to be a good starter and gave them some stability at LB.

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The Biggie Shuffle

Posted: May 4th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have a good starting offensive line. They also have some very talented backups. One of the questions now is where everyone will line up.

Jason Peters is the LT. Jordan Mailata worked at LT last summer. Andre Dillard is a LT. Lane Johnson is the RT. Matt Pryor is a natural RT. And we can’t forget about Big V. He’s a good backup tackle on both sides.

Plenty of other NFL teams would kill for a situation like that.

So what is going to happen with all these guys?

Mike Kaye wrote a good piece on the line that included an interview with OL guru Duke Manyweather.  Duke said good things about Dillard, but I found a comment about Big V most interesting.

“He’s a guy that gives you flexibility. He’s played left tackle, he’s played right tackle and he’s a big SOB. Maybe he’s a guy that could play guard. Maybe Jordan [Mailata] could play guard. [The Eagles] have some options there and Philly is in a good situation.”

I had kicked around the idea of Big V playing OG, but hadn’t really thought about it too much. With Brandon Brooks out right now, the Eagles need someone to fill his spot. Matt Pryor worked at RG last summer, but didn’t look great. Big V is an experienced player and would make some sense. He doesn’t have OG experience, but he’s got the skill set to succeed on the inside. He’s big and strong. He can get movement in the run game. Big V is a solid pass protector. He struggles at times on the edge, but I think he would be fine on the inside.

This is pure speculation at this point. We’ll have to wait for a minicamp to see where guys are lining up.

Here is a guess for now.

LT Jason Peters ….. Andre Dillard
LG Isaac Seumalo …..
OC Jason Kelce …….
RG H. Vaitai …… Matt Pryor ….. Brandon Brooks (injured)
RT Lane Johnson ….. Jordan Mailata

You could also switch that up a bit. Big V could be Johnson’s backup and Mailata could be playing LG. The problem with projecting Mailata at OG is that he’s 6-8. Most guards are 6-6 or lower. John Wetzel is 6-7 and has started 24 games so far in his career so it isn’t out of the question. It would be unusual, though.

The Eagles like Mailata a lot. They have a plan for him. I don’t know what it is, obviously, but he’s not just another guy.

Depth at C and G isn’t close to being set. Anthony Fabiano would probably be the backup C right now. He is very athletic and would make a lot of sense for the Eagles. The problem is that this is his seventh organization. Teams are interested in him, but he can’t seem to keep a job.

What about the UDFAs?

Draft analyst Thor Nystrom had this to say about the Eagles class, which he ranked 6th in the NFL.

The Eagles swooped up three draftable guards — I predict they’ll find at least one in the group who’ll hang.  (LB T.J.) Edwards was worth a shot on college play alone.

Thor had the Eagles OGs rated:

Ryan Bates
Iosua Opeta
Nate Herbig

Notice that he didn’t have C/G Keegan Render mentioned. I like Render and think he’s a player to watch. Thor must be wrong. I don’t have a track record of overrating at least one UDFA per year for the last two decades. Oh wait…C Bruce Johnson, T Aaron Evans, LB Jake Knott, etc.

I’m sticking by Render. First stop, Philly. Next stop, Canton.

*****

One website said this about Render.

Keegan Render – The three-year starter on the offensive line will be taking his talents to the City of Angels. Render signed a UDFA deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

When the heck did Philly become the City of Angels?

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More Pieces

Posted: May 3rd, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on More Pieces

There are different ways to look at building a good roster. You could think of it like cooking. A good dish needs a sprinkle of this and a dash of that. I have compared team building to a chemistry experiment, where you are looking for just the right combination to get just the right results.

You could also think of it as solving a puzzle.

On Friday, Howie Roseman added a couple of more pieces to the puzzle.

That is a pair of strong moves for early May.

I’m not telling you the Eagles just added Byron Evans and Wes Hopkins, but they got a pair of talented, experienced players at positions where the team needed some depth. These are the kind of signings you want to make in May.

Zach Brown is here to compete for the MLB job. He’s 29-years old and has started 74 games in his 7-year career. Brown has played for the Titans, Bills and Skins. He has played in the 3-4 and the 4-3. The Skins released him in March to save money. He may have also been let go for speaking his mind and not embracing every move and decision by the coaching staff and front office.

Brown has solid size. They list him at 6-1, 250, but I’m not sure he’s that heavy. Brown is a good athlete. He is a good tackler. There are times when he does a good job of taking on blockers and getting to the ball. Brown has some playmaking ability. In the last three seasons, he has 33 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, 4 FFs and an INT.

There are issues. Brown is up and down in coverage. There are times when he is all over a TE or runs right with a RB. There are other times when he gets a bit lost. Brown isn’t as good at diagnosing plays as you would expect a veteran to be. He also could do a better job of taking on blockers. He catches blocks more than you would like. Ideally a LB will use his hands to strike a blocker. He doesn’t want the blocker getting into his body. Brown lets that happen too much.

Here he is playing in the 4-3 in BUF back in 2016.

It will be interesting to see how the MLB battle shakes out. Brown is the front runner. Paul Worrilow can play MLB or OLB. L.J. Fort can play inside or outside. And there is UDFA T.J. Edwards (don’t call me TJ Adams!).

By claiming Countess, the Eagles are going back to the future. He was a sixth round pick back in 2016. Countess was disappointing as a rookie and got cut before the season. He found a home with the Rams, as a backup DB and key STer. Why was he cut?

Countess was going to be the #4 safety for the Rams and they wanted a cheaper player for that role.

Countess is a forceful hitter and solid tackler. I don’t have a feel for how good he is in coverage yet.

In Philly, Countess will be a backup as well. We know Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will be the starters. Andrew Sendejo was signed to be the #3 safety. Countess would probably be the #4 guy as of now. There will be competition.

Tre Sullivan returns for another season and is a player on the rise. How much? We’ll find out. Deiondre’ Hall is back for Year 2, but did virtually nothing last year. The Eagles also claimed Godwin Igwebuike recently. None of these guys are anything special, but it is crucial to have competition.

Howie Roseman said after the draft that the team wasn’t done adding talent. You can bet that is true after Friday’s moves as well.

*****

Want to appreciate Roseman?

The Eagles aren’t going to sink a lot of money into LB. You are better off investing in the DL and secondary.

The team did pay big bucks to Nigel Bradham, but he’s surrounded by young players and cheap veterans. That is a smart use of resources.

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