It seems like ages ago that the Eagles traded for ILB Kiko Alonso. He’s one of the players I’m most excited to see this summer. Alonso is still rehabbing from a torn ACL, but he should be good to go by the time the regular season gets here. Alonso tore his ACL last spring so he’ll have a full calendar year of recovery time.
He’s going to be a big help for us,” said inside linebackers coach Rick Minter in a post-trade Chalk Talk event with corporate partners at the NovaCare Complex. “He does all the things that we want our linebackers to do. He’s big, he’s tall and he moves side to side and attacks the football. He’s really the prototype of what we’re looking for inside.
“He’s got great height, great range and while he looks skinny when you see him in a uniform, he still weighs 240 pounds. He has great pass-field awareness, is excellent defending the pass and has great hands. He had four interceptions as a rookie, right off the bat. He has a great base, bends real well. He really does it all.
“This is the total player athletically. He can play ‘MIKE’ linebacker for us where we play in the ‘C’ gap and he can play where we now play Mychal Kendricks. I really think Kiko can swing to either inside position in our defense. He’s very athletic, very fast and can cover people. He’s smart, he’s aware, he runs his feet on contact. I’m obviously really excited to have him.”
I love the fact that Alonso is a 3-down LB and a playmaker.
Watch his college and NFL highlights and you see really good hands. He catches the ball better than some receivers.
Chip Kelly loves takeaways. He’s got to covet a LB that can make a lot of plays in the passing game. Alonso had 4 INTs in his final college season and 4 in his rookie season in the NFL. That’s not just luck. That shows you that he does a good job of playing the passing lanes and that he catches the ball when it comes his way.
Some people have asked about Alonso playing OLB. He isn’t going to ever be a full-time OLB in the 3-4. You need players that are in the 255 to 270 pound range. They need to be stout run defenders and good pass rushers. Alonso is an effective blitzer, but that’s different from being a primary pass rusher.
I do think he’s big enough and talented enough to play some snaps at OLB. After all, Casey Matthews was the backup SLB in 2013. Alonso is bigger and worlds better than him.
Here is a funny ESPN piece on The Legend of Kiko Alonso.
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If you need some more humor…
When will the Eagles appeal the Titans' drafting of Mariota? #draftgate
The Eagles are better at CB. At least I think so. They have more quality bodies this year at the very least. We won’t know if Safety is improved until we see if Earl Wolff can stay healthy, if Ed Reynolds has NFL talent or if Jaylen Watkins can make the transition to full-time S. Chris Prosinski and Jerome Couplin may also have a say in matters.
The one spot where I think the Eagles are definitively better is DB coach, where Cory Undlin takes over for John Lovett. Undlin has a good NFL track record. He understands what it takes to be a good NFL secondary. Lovett has a strong resume at the college level, but his unit struggled in the past 2 years. Lovett wasn’t given great talent, but he certainly didn’t seem to help the situation.
“The change in philosophy is the biggest change,” Jenkins said after one of the team’s workouts at the NovaCare Complex. “And Cory Undlin is the most important pick up in that room. Even Maxwell, who has great technique and knows how to win, but I think getting coach Undelin is the biggest difference.”
Undlin replaces John Lovett, who was re-assigned to the scouting department after the season.
“I didn’t know him at all,” Jenkins, the Piscataway native said of Undlin. “But seeing him and how he works, he puts a lot of emphasis on technique and eye placement. We’ve only been with him a month, or so, and our room has already gotten better in that month. Just from a standpoint of fundamental football and that’s what we really didn’t get the past two years. I heard that when I got here. And then you saw it last year.
“With Coach Undlin it’s going to be a lot different.”
This doesn’t mean the secondary is going to magically be better. Undlin has to teach his players better technique. It can take time to learn this and to play consistently good football.
Undlin also has to push his players. He isn’t walking onto a team that is loaded with physically gifted defensive backs. The Eagles have some talent, but most of the players have the kind of talent/athleticism that requires they do all the little things right. That wasn’t happening in the past 2 years. It is up to Undlin to get this unit playing better football.
Chip Kelly wants to be aggressive. But he also likes playing with favorable odds.
Some think the addition of Tim Tebow is related to this. Maybe. The problem with that is that he’d have to be active on gameday. That means you’re going weak at some other position. Or you are willing to have Tebow take over at QB if something happens to Sam Bradford. I’m hopeful that his throwing motion is better, but I’m not ready to say I want Tebow as the backup QB on gamedays.
Darren Sproles proved to be a surprisingly effective goal line runner last year. And now the Eagles have DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in the backfield. That could be good enough.
And who knows…Chip Kelly could have something else up his sleeve.
The Eagles also pushed for the defense to be able to score 2 points if they get the ball on a 2-point conversion and run it all the way back. Kelly wants his team to be able to score any and every possible way.
I have written about some UDFAs at length, but not all of them. Some of you think I’m being unfair to the guys I haven’t covered.
Here’s the deal. Not all UDFAs are the same. Some have a legitimate shot at playing in the NFL. Others are essentially camp bodies. This isn’t an insult, it is just reality. Nobody will ever confuse my writing with David McCullough’s.
The other factor here is time. It takes time for me to watch tape on the prospects and be thorough with them. We also have some dead time in the next few months. I’m not going to rush out every rookie article by May 15th when I’ve still got 2 more months until Training Camp.
I think John Harris is easily the best of the UDFA receivers. Others prefer Devante Davis. Rasheed Bailey has his fans. I’ve covered Harris pretty well. I need to study Davis more closely before writing at length about him. Bailey is a great story, but he’s nowhere close to the others. Still, I’ll cover him in the future.
I want all these kids to play well and have a shot at an NFL career. I’m pulling for all of them. But I do have to be honest when assessing the players. They went undrafted for a reason. They can’t all be likely to make the roster. It just doesn’t work like that.
Every now and then you’ll hear a coach or analyst talk about how there are more UDFAs than 1st round picks on NFL teams (or some variation of that stat). Talk about lazy math. Each team gets a single 1st round pick. Each team adds 10 to 20 UDFAs. You do the math. Of course there are going to be lots of UDFAs in the league. The problem is that they tend to come and go. Jason Peters and Cedric Thornton are exceptions. The average UDFA is more like Matt Tobin or Brandon Bair.
We all love underdogs. Let’s hope this UDFA class has some good moments and gives us something to cheer for.
I’m optimistic by nature. I see question marks as well, but also plenty of talent.
I stopped at the grocery store tonight on the way home. Had to re-up on my Funyuns supply. I was wearing an Eagles shirt. The guy in line beside me saw the shirt and asked “Is this the year you guys win the Super Bowl?”
I told him the key is Sam Bradford. If he stays healthy and plays well, the Eagles have a chance to be very good. If he struggles or if he gets hurt and Mark Sanchez takes over…this could be another frustrating year.
Lots of mystery with this team.
Jimmy and I are hoping to record a podcast this week. If not, early next week. We’ll recap the draft and talk about our thoughts on the team.
The Houston Texans surprised some people on Monday when they cut Safety D.J. Swearinger. He was a 2nd round pick in 2013 (57th overall) and started 22 of 32 games for the Texans. They tried to trade him this spring but found no takers. Now he’s there for the taking.
Will the Eagles have interest?
One of Chip Kelly’s best friends is Bill O’Brien, who just happens to be the Houston coach. He is the man who just cut Swearinger. We don’t know for a fact what the problem is. There are reports that he refused to play on STs. There are some character issues with him. He was a talented, but flawed Safety.
I was not a huge fan of his coming out of South Carolina. Swearinger played too out of control for my taste. That might have been okay 10 years ago, but it won’t work in today’s football. You have to play under control. Big hits are still good, but killshots are no longer part of the game.
There are some reports that Tampa put in a claim on him. If that happens, it doesn’t matter if the Eagles are interested or not. I’m doubting they are, but we’ll see if we hear anything on the subject.
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The Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin in the offseason.
They drafted Nelson Agholor. They signed Miles Austin. They added a pair of UDFAs who could push for roster spots, John Harris and Devante Davis. They signed free agent Seyi Ajirotutu. They return second year players Josh Huff and Quron Pratt.
Is this enough to get Riley Cooper out of town?
I don’t think anything happens until the players get on the field this summer. 2014 Riley Cooper isn’t a guy you feel compelled to keep. But what if the guy from 2013 shows back up? You want that guy.
The pressure is going to be on Cooper. He can be cut after June 1st.
For whatever reason, Chip Kelly feels differently about him than most of the rest of the world. This year that will be tested. Kelly didn’t add all these receivers for the heck of it. He wants them to push each other so he can find the best 5 or 6.
Will Murphy got cut last week. I don’t know if Jeff Maehl has been re-signed. They list him on the roster, but I haven’t seen news of his re-signing. Kelly is making changes at receiver this spring. Guys have to earn spots, not to mention playing time. That is true for Riley Cooper just as it is for everyone else.
3. I’m not sure what any of this means, but it’s fascinating to me: This will be the first time since 1997 that the Eagles’ leading rusher won’t be a player the Eagles drafted. The last 17 years, the Eagles’ leading rusher was Donovan McNabb once, Duce Staley four times and Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy six times each. The last player the Eagles didn’t draft to lead the team in rushing was Ricky Watters in 1997.
4. Even crazier, there’s a chance no player the Eagles drafted will even get a carry this year. None of the Eagles’ running backs was drafted by the Eagles, and of the quarterbacks, only Matt Barkley was. Unless Barkley makes the team and gets in a game and gets a carry … or unless Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor or Josh Huff has an end around … or unless the Eagles re-sign Anthony Toney … this will be the first time since 1943 no player drafted by the Eagles has a carry for the Eagles.
5. Similarly, unless Barkley gets in a game and gets a passing attempt, this will be the first year since 1984 no player drafted by the Eagles throws a pass for the Eagles.
I’m betting drafted players will run and pass this year. I’m guessing it will be receivers who do this. Josh Huff will throw the pass. Nelson Agholor will get the carry.
Texas WR John Harris signed with the Eagles as a UDFA. Watch this highlight clip and you’ll wonder how the heck that happened.
Nobody drafted that kid? Really?
He shows good hands, body control and physicality. That’s what you want from a WR who goes 6-2, 213.
His Pro Day workout wasn’t spectacular, but these are solid numbers:
40 – 4.59
BP – 19 reps
VJ – 33.5
3C – 6.82
SS – 4.45
That is a poor short shuttle time. Based on the good 3-cone time and the agility he shows on game tape, I’m betting he just did a poor job of running that drill as opposed to being so slow and stiff that he genuinely is that bad at the drill. Think of this as someone who knows the material and just happens to do poorly on the test.
Harris wasn’t on anyone’s radar as recently as last summer. He caught 9 passes in his first 3 years at Texas. He injured his foot in 2011 and that limited his playing time that year. He struggled to challenge for playing time in 2012. The coaches had him bulk up to 225 in 2013 and give TE a try. That didn’t work.
The funny thing is…you can see his talent. Watch this pre-halftime Hail Mary vs Iowa State from his Junior year.
That is one heck of a catch. I’d want that guy on the field.
Harris got lucky that there was a coaching change at Texas. New coach Charlie Strong wasn’t impressed with Harris at all initially. He saw talent, but not the consistent practice performance that coaches crave. The WR coach challenged Harris to step up. That helped a lot. So did a change at QB. Harris had caught a lot of scout team passes from Tyrone Swoopes prior to 2014. When Swoopes became the starter, the two of them clicked and that helped Harris to have a breakout season.
68 – 1,051 – 7 … 15.5 ypc
Harris is a good fit for the Eagles. He can play in the slot or on the outside. He will need to work on his route-running and making better cuts, but that is true for most college receivers. I love the fact he catches the ball so naturally and is such a physical player. He’s not afraid of contact and can take some good shots. He will catch short passes and work the middle of the field. He has good RAC ability due to a combination of some elusiveness and the ability to break arm tackles.
While Harris isn’t a burner, he is an effective downfield receiver. He locates the ball well. He can make contested catches. Harris can battle with a DB for a 50-50 ball and make the grab. That’s critical if you don’t run 4.4. You’ve got to be able to battle for the ball and win.
Harris is coming to the Eagles as a UDFA. He’ll have to work his butt off to have a shot at the roster. Harris played on STs at Texas and was an outstanding blocker. Those are areas where he can stand out even if the ball isn’t coming his way a ton in practice. He will need to do all the little things well if he is going to push for a roster spot.
Here are a couple of games from Harris. You can see he’s not just a highlights guy. He has good game tape.
I don’t want to make Harris out to be something he isn’t. He isn’t 6-4, 225. He doesn’t run a 4.3. He wasn’t a college All-American.
At the same time, this is a much better UDFA receiver than the Eagles have had in a while. He’s far more than just a camp body. I do think Harris has the potential to play in the NFL. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play this summer.
I said some good things about JaCorey Shepherd. The more I watch of him, the more impressed I get. The Eagles might have gotten very lucky in finding that guy in the 6th round. Sure feels like a major steal.
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