He Caved

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

Sam Bradford changed his mind and reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday. I wonder what made him do that? Did he talk to someone who offered new perspective? Did he have a drug-induced revelation? Did he see the light on the way to Damascus (or Delaware)?

No. Reality set in.

Sammy had no real choices. He could have retired. But that would have cost him precious time and money. He could have waited for the state of Oklahoma to form its own league, where he would lead the Oklahoma Awesomes to 3 straight championships. Or he could suck it up and come back to the Eagles.

Bingo.

Sammy badly misplayed his hand. He didn’t get what he wanted and now he has to deal with the fallout from those actions. The good news here is that Sammy quit being an idiot soon enough that no real damage was done internally. He missed one week of voluntary activities. The coaches can live with that. They are happy to have their veteran QB return.

Teammates will give Sammy a hard time for a bit, but most will forgive him the first time he hits Zach Ertz down the seam with a tight spiral. In the end, players want to win. Chase Daniel is the plucky underdog and knows the offense better than anyone on the team. Carson Wentz is super talented and the future of the franchise. But the QB who gives the Eagles the best chance to win games right now is Sammy.

Here is a statement from Bradford:

“I’m excited to be back on the field today with my teammates and coaches. The business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and efforts are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season: I am committed to my teammates and the Eagles organization for nothing less.”

So I guess we’re going to win the Super Bowl. That would be cool.

*****

Les Bowen offered his take on the situation and made some great points.

As we go forward, every interaction between Bradford and Wentz is going to be scrutinized endlessly. Everything Wentz says is going to be deconstructed to highlight any differences between his personality and Bradford’s, or any implicit criticisms of Bradford. We’ve already seen this dynamic at work, when Wentz was asked about quarterbacks he admired and he (gasp!) didn’t include Bradford.

Everything Bradford says will be parsed for digs at management, Pederson, or Wentz. Every Bradford incomplete pass, every stalled drive, will bring grumbles from the stands.

To an extent, all of this was on tap even before the trade request. But now, with agent Tom Condon having proclaimed that Bradford “doesn’t view himself as a stopgap quarterback . . . He doesn’t want to be there holding a placecard, and then wondering where he’s going to go at the end of the year,” the microscope will zoom in much tighter.

Boy is Les right about that. Bradford will be living under a microscope. QBs in Philly get a lot of scrutiny on a good day, but he’s about to deal with a level of scrutiny that will make his life fairly miserable. Bradford can work his way out of that by playing at a very high level, but anything less and he’ll be answering utterly inane questions all season long.

And…

The hand played by Bradford and Condon seems to have held some lukewarm Broncos interest, and . . . uh, nothing. Condon didn’t have a trade in his back pocket. Bradford, owed $18 million this season, wasn’t willing to sit out long term. And if he had been, it’s hard to see how some team picking him up late in the process, months from now, would present a better opportunity for Bradford’s future than could be forged by playing well as the undisputed 2016 starter here.

Yet, in a podcast interview with former agent and Eagles executive Andrew Brandt recorded on April 28, Condon openly questioned how much clout Bradford will have with his teammates and predicted he would only be the starter “until the rookie is ready to go.”

Just what you’d want your agent to say on your behalf in such a circumstance, no doubt. Yet Bradford continues to let Condon shape how he is viewed.

Finessing the minefield that lies ahead with the Eagles and Wentz is going to take a lot of savvy, thoughtful navigation by Bradford – a guy who two weeks ago decided the best way to get around a roadblock was to drive his career into a tree.

I don’t know who is at fault more, Bradford or Condon. I get that Bradford wanted to go to Denver. That’s closer to home and is more his type of place to live. The Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl champs. But you can’t hope your way there. You have to know for a fact they’ll make a move. Howie Roseman wasn’t going to just hand over a starting QB for nothing. Condon had to work the phones and do a better job of feeling out that situation.

Either Condon was giving bad advice or Bradford was being ridiculously obstinate. That’s over now and it is humble pie time.

Don’t just nibble. Dig in and eat the whole damn thing.

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The New Guys

Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

This certainly seems like good news.

Rather than do a bunch of writing on these guys right now, I want to share a good story I came across.

Here is an in-depth look at how Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl helped the Ravens scout Joe Flacco.

It isn’t a short piece and offers plenty of interesting details. I think you’ll come away impressed by Douglas and Weidl. I’ve got plenty more research to do, but it sure feels like Howie Roseman made a pair of outstanding hires.

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All About the Passing Game

Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 202 Comments »

Once the draft is over, I like to go back and look at the picks from a variety of angles. If you study them, you sometimes will see patterns emerge. I think I found one for this year.

My newest PE.com column is on how the Eagles used the 2016 draft to focus on the passing game, both on offense and defense.

Think about the 2015 Eagles. They had 23 TD passes. Opponents had 36. The Eagles had a QB rating of 85.6. Opponents were up at 92.8. Whether we are talking about volume or efficiency, the Eagles did not throw the ball well enough, nor did they defend the pass well enough.

Wentz is obvious.

Think about Seumalo. The Eagles took him over Le’Raven Clark, a player some thought might be a 1st round pick. Clark is an outstanding athlete and good run blocker, but he is highly erratic as a pass blocker. Instead, the Eagles took a G/C who is a good pass blocker. The Eagles also passed on C/G Graham Glasgow. He is a better run blocker than Seumalo, but isn’t as good a pass protector.

The Eagles took RB Wendell Smallwood in the 5th round. They passed on bigger or more physical RBs like Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins, Kelvin Taylor and Darius Jackson. Smallwood caught 68 passes at WVa. He lined up in the slot or as an outside receiver at times. He also showed the ability to be a solid pass blocker. The other backs were good runners, but less proven in the passing game.

Big V was the next pick. He was an OT with good feet. The Eagles took him over Fahn Cooper, a RT from Ole Miss. They passed on Sebastian Tretola, an OG who is a mauling run blocker. Vadal Alexander could play RT or OG and was a terrific run blocker. The Eagles got Vaitai, with his outstanding feet and potential to become a starting LT.

The Eagles added a pair of versatile DBs in Blake Countess and Jalen Mills. Right now both are listed at Safety. The Eagles passed over Jeremy Cash, who was a terrific run defender and big SS. They ignored Tyvis Powell, who had cover skills and good size. The Eagles wanted Safeties with man cover skills.

I know a lot of fans were upset with the team for passing on Cash. I watched almost all of his games for the past 2 years. Cash is a gifted player, but is made for the NFL of 10 years ago, when a SS could live in the box and play a defined role. Think Mike Zordich. Cash doesn’t have the quickness, agility or man cover skills teams want these days. That said, I’m still shocked he wasn’t drafted.

The other picks were DE Alex McCalister and ILB Joe Walker. McCalister is a pass rusher that might be able to contribute right away. I’m sure the Eagles were happy he was still on the board at that point. The Eagles chose Walker over players like Dominique Alexander, Jared Norris, Eric Striker, Steve Longa and Terrance Smith. None of those players came close to his combination of size, speed and agility. Walker is more likely to help in the passing game than those players.

A lot of teams talked about wanting to get bigger and more physical during the draft. They focused on size, strength and power. The Eagles wanted athletes who could help the passing game or help stop the passing game. Based purely on picks, it looks like the Eagles did a good job. Now we have to see how the players perform.

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Versatility Ability

Posted: May 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 142 Comments »

Doug Pederson has mentioned versatility as a desired quality in his players more than once or twice. But most coaches mention that. It sounds great.

The Eagles really did focus on versatility with this group of rookies. Pederson seems to be a coach who genuinely means what he says.

Isaac Seumalo – Played all over the O-line in his college career. Can play any of the interior spots in the NFL. I don’t think he could play OT unless it was an emergency.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai – Started at RT and LT at TCU. Could play on either side in the NFL. Might be able to play OG as well, but more of a natural OT.

Wendell Smallwood – Can run, catch and throw. Used to line up in the slot early in his career. Lined up a bit outside in 2015. Also has some KOR experience.

That’s pretty good for a RB.

Blake Countess – So versatile he actually went to 2 colleges. Okay, maybe that doesn’t count. Did start at CB and S in his career. Could turn out to be the next Sheldon Brown, Brandon Boykin or Rodney McLeod. I think Safety might be the best spot for him.

Jalen Mills – 4-year starter at LSU who spent time at S and CB. Like Countess, can play all over in the NFL. Covers well enough for CB, but hits/tackles well enough for S. The Eagles have to figure out where he fits the best.

Joe Walker – More of a projection. Spent his entire college career playing ILB. The Eagles want him to compete for the backup MLB job right away. But also has the size and athleticism to play OLB. Walker is 6-2, 236. He ran 4.60 at his Pro Day. That could be a WLB or a SAM. His versatility could give the Eagles the option of only having 5 LBs dress on gameday, allowing them to have an extra DL or DB available. Walker has to show he can handle MLB first. I did find it interesting that the Eagles looked at some thumper type MLBs but ended up choosing an athletic guy who can play multiple spots.

Byron Marshall – More of a weapon than a position. Was a WR/RB/RS for Oregon. The Eagles are projecting him at RB for now. Marshall could be groomed to replace Darren Sproles in a year. Forget about what you call Marshall, just get him the ball in space and let him make plays for you.

Wow.

Aziz Shittu – Played DT, DE and NT for Stanford. Will likely be a NT or DT for the Eagles, but could get the occasional look at DE. Has good quickness, but I’m not sure he has the speed for DE in the Wide 9 front. No matter where you lined him up in college, Shittu was disruptive.

Destiny Vaeao – Played DE and DT for Washington State. Can play NT or DT for the Eagles. Strong enough to be a stout run defender. Athletic enough to be disruptive when flying up the field.

Connor Wujciak – Played DT, NT and DE for Boston College. Ran 4.91 at the Combine, where he was 6-2, 291. For the sake of comparison, Fletcher Cox ran 4.79 at 6-4, 298. Wujciak had the highest SPARQ score of any major college DT. This kid is one heck of an athlete and you can bet Jim Schwartz will move him around to try and take advantage of that.

You can see that this group of rookies can play different roles. Just as importantly, the schemes allow for that. The 3-4 was more limiting in what players could do. Fletcher Cox can play all 4 spots in the 4-3. Jordan Hicks can play all the linebacker spots in the 4-3.

The offense will use more huddles and player changes. That allows role players to have more impact. Chip Kelly wanted speed. That mean having the same 11 guys out there as much as possible. Pederson will use tempo, but will also play more situational football.

There are plenty of versatile players who failed in the NFL so these rookies still have a major challenge in front of them. Some of the guys will be battling each other for roster spots and/or playing time. The more things a guy can do well, the better his chances of succeeding.

Oh yeah, it also wouldn’t hurt to be kinda decent on Special Teams as well.

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In-Depth: Wendell Smallwood

Posted: May 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 271 Comments »

The draft may be over, but I’ll be writing a lot about it for the next couple of months. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the picks the Eagles made, both in terms of the players themselves and also how the moves make sense (or don’t) from the team’s perspective.

I haven’t said a lot about Carson Wentz in the past few days. He got a ton of coverage from the major media so I focused elsewhere. I’ll have plenty to say about Wentz, but let’s go elsewhere for now.

From my perspective, the two most interesting picks were RB Wendell Smallwood and DB Blake Countess. Smallwood is the more noteworthy player for now so we’ll start with him.

First, I liked Smallwood quite a bit. He came to my attention at the Scouting Combine and grew on me from there.

During the college season, I tend to focus on Seniors and elite Juniors. Smallwood, unlike Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, was not on my radar. I watched a bit of West Virginia, but simply wasn’t aware of him. I start checking out Juniors at the Combine.

I remember seeing RB22 going through the drills on the field and wondering who that was. The player was fluid and moved very naturally. He really impressed me. I figured out that was some guy named Wendell Smallwood. It didn’t take long before I found out he led the Big 12 in rushing in 2015 and suddenly I had to take him seriously as a prospect. Here’s the quick snippet I wrote on him back then.

RB Wendell Smallwood – Good showing. 5-10, 208. Ran 4.47 and posted great 3-cone time of 6.83. Only jumped 33.5 inches. I was impressed by him in the drills. Also looked good catching the ball.

Just for fun, here is LeSean McCoy’s Pro Day.

5-10, 204
4.50
VJ – 29
3C – 6.82

That’s pretty interesting, huh? No one is saying Smallwood will be Shady, Pt. 2. McCoy was a great college player and went in the 2nd round. Smallwood was a good college player and went in the 5th round. While similar in size and athleticism, they are different guys.

One thing they do have in common is the ability to make plays. Shady did a great job of that at the NFL level. For now, Smallwood has only done it in college. But he did lead the NCAA in runs of 10 or more yards in 2015. Smallwood averaged 6.4 yards per carry. He isn’t just going to move the chains. Smallwood can help you get chunk plays, something the Eagles offense lacked in 2015.

Let’s watch a bit of Smallwood in action. I think this game shows his overall skill set.   Read the rest of this entry »