Posted: May 5th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 53 Comments »
One of the problems with talking about Michael Vick is that he is an incredibly polarizing player. His supporters will tell you that with better coaches around him and a better defense, Vick would have been a star QB in the last couple of years. His critics think he’s been exposed as an injury-prone turnover machine.
As is generally the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
The first thing we have to get out there is that Vick the elite franchise QB is gone. That player does not exist anymore. Vick was benched last year for rookie Nick Foles. Vick is competing with Foles and rookie Matt Barkley this year. If Vick was still the special player from the past, he would not be competing with these guys. This isn’t a criticism of Vick. Age catches up to 99 percent of players. Guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are freaks. Just look at Philip Rivers and how quickly he’s fallen from elite QB to inconsistent QB.
I do think Vick can be a solid starter. The problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is that you don’t know if you can trust him. I don’t mean this in terms of character. Strictly football. Can Vick stay healthy? Can Vick have consecutive good years?
Vick has only played 16 games once in his career. He is tough as nails, but his never-say-die attitude leads to him taking some big hits. I know that Vick’s injuries the last 2 years came in the pocket, but in 2010 he got hurt on the run. And there is no way to tell what kind of an effect the hits have in terms of wearing him down and making him vulnerable to the hits that do end up injuring him.
Trying to figure out how many “good” years Vick has had is tricky. 2010 was a very good year. Beyond that, very hard to say. Vick only has 2 years when he threw for 20 or more TDs. He only has 3 years when he had a QB rating of 80 or more. You do have to factor in running when discussing Vick since that is such a big part of his career. In 2006, Vick became the only QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards. The Falcons went 7-9 and finished 25th in scoring in the NFL. The Falcons got to the NFC title game in 2004. The offense was mediocre and so was Vick’s passing. He did run for 902 yards. The Falcons had a good offense in 2002, Vick’s first year with a rating above 80. Honestly, though, you can make the argument that Vick has never had back-to-back good years in the NFL.
How does a team commit to a player that isn’t likely to play all 16 games and they can’t count on to be good from year to year?
This is why 2013 is so critical for Vick. He has a tremendous opportunity in front of him. For the first time in his career, Vick gets to play for a coach that embraces the run game, but also has a history of developing QBs and knows how to run a good passing attack.
As a Falcon, Vick didn’t develop as a passer. Part of that is on the coaches he had. They settled for Vick making big plays and fell under his spell. Athletic QBs do this to coaches, whether Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, or E.J. Manuel. Just as big is the fact that Vick was more concerned about living a fun life than he was trying to be a good QB.
Then came Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. They developed Vick as a passer, but their lack of a balanced offense is very well documented. Vick learned a lot in his 3 years starting for them, but things did swing too far the other way. Vick simply isn’t meant to drop back 35 to 40 times a game.
Chip Kelly will figure out what Vick does well and stick with that as long as it works. Reid loved to talk about putting players in position to succeed, but too often didn’t take his own advice. Kelly will. He’s truly a flexible coach that will adapt his schemes and ideas to the talent he has.
Before any of this can happen, Vick has to win the job. And that isn’t a sure thing. Kelly will give the job to the player who plays the best. There is no loyalty to Vick, Foles, Barkley, or Dixon.
What about with the players? Vick has burned through some of the goodwill that he had built up over the years. This isn’t about character, just football. Fumbles, interceptions, and losses wear down everybody. There were more than a couple of guys who were happy to see Foles take the field last year. That would have been unheard of in 2010 or 2011. The Eagles only scored more than 20 points twice last year in games that Vick started and finished. Foles did that 4 times in his 6 starts. Vick just wasn’t right last year. We could see it in the preseason. I don’t know why, but even the players knew something was up.
Vick’s teammates still admire his toughness and like him personally, but they want to win and score points. If Vick doesn’t play well, the other players will gladly shift their support to Foles or even Barkley. The NFL is all about results.
I mentioned yesterday that Vick has the physical skills to play well for Kelly. Vick has a strong arm and can make every throw. He has a quick release. Vick still runs well and if he is the starter, Kelly can implement the read-option as part of the running attack. One thing you do have to understand is that no matter what, Kelly won’t be running the exact offense he did at Oregon. The NFL field isn’t divided into the wide side and the boundary side. That changes things. Oregon was a running team. They were 3rd in the nation in rushing and 72nd in passing. NFL teams are either balanced or pass more. The 2013 Eagles and the 2012 Oregon Ducks will be more cousins than twins.
Vick’s quick release may seem to be at odds with the fact he held the ball too much in 2012, but one is a physical skill and the other is a style of play. When Vick does see something, he can pull the trigger and get the ball out in a hurry. I don’t think Vick will hold the ball as much under Kelly since I expect more of a quick style of passing. That said, Vick must improve his pre-snap reads. We saw in that miserable Tuesday night loss in 2010 that Vick just didn’t make good pre-snap reads. Antoine Winfield seemed to catch him by surprise play after play. If Vick is going to get the ball out quickly in 2013, part of that is making a read at the line and having a good idea of where to go before the ball is even snapped. Vick is smart enough to do this. He is experienced enough to do this. I really don’t know why it has been such a poor part of his game.
Just how good can Vick be, if he does win the job? That’s really impossible for me to answer until I see him and the offense in action. We get too caught up in rankings anyway. We saw in 2010 that when Vick does play well, he can lead a team to a division title and the team can score lots of points. That was fool’s gold because the offense was too reliant on big plays and you just can’t count on them in the postseason. Kelly will embrace the run game more than Reid ever did so the Eagles won’t live and die with big plays in the passing game.
I think Vick can be similar to Jeff Garcia from 2006. That offense needed a strong run game. The passing attack was a mixture of efficient and explosive. Garcia was a fiery leader that the other players fed off. Vick has a stronger arm and is more mobile than Garcia, but Jeff was an expert at the WCO while Vick will be learning Kelly’s offense. Vick should have a good OL and he will have the best set of skill players he ever worked with.
If Vick can’t bounce back this year, it will likely be the end of his career. He’s got some very favorable conditions that should give him the chance to get back to playing well.
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I know some of you think I’m anti-Vick. That simply isn’t true. I want the Eagles to score points and win games. I don’t care if the QB is Joe Montana, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Pol Pot. Find someone to win me some friggin’ games.
I mentioned yesterday that part of me doesn’t want Vick to succeed…BUT…that is only because I want stability at QB and Vick is here on a 1-year deal and he’s about to turn 33. A good season from him means good things on the field in 2013, but another set of complicated questions once the next offseason rolls around. This is nothing personal. If Vick was 28 and could be part of the long term plans, I’d be all in on him.
I’m not going to pull for Vick to struggle. That’s not the way I operate. I cheer for everyone wearing Eagles green. I’m just saying it would be more convenient for Foles or Barkley to win the starting job and play well since they’re younger and have more of a future.
This isn’t personal…just football.
No matter what happens with Vick on the field in 2013, his time in Philly has been a success because of the changes he’s made as a person. Ron Mexico is a distant memory. Vick is now a player you can fully trust off the field, and that’s an amazing transformation when you think where he was a decade ago. Kudos to him and Andy Reid for that.
Posted: May 4th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 133 Comments »
We’ve talked about a lot of possibilities for the 2013 Eagles. One that we haven’t really gotten into much is this…what if Michael Vick has a good season?
I didn’t want Vick brought back. He’s been highly erratic over the last 2 seasons. I was tired of the turnovers, missed reads, and questionable decisions. I wanted a change. Didn’t happen
Back in early February the Eagles restructured his contract and brought Vick back. This move was made in part because the Eagles didn’t know what to do. Chip Kelly had only been the coach for a few weeks. He hadn’t made extensive plans for the offense he would run. The Scouting Combine hadn’t taken place so Kelly and the coaches had minimal draft knowledge and hadn’t met many players. Kelly hadn’t had a chance to talk football with Nick Foles, let alone see him on the practice field. There was a lot of uncertainty at QB and one safe move would be to bring Vick back on a lesser deal that would give the Eagles the freedom to cut him if they changed their mind. Vick got $3.5M up front so that’s a nice parting gift if the Eagles do let him go. Win-win.
When you go back and study what Kelly likes in QBs, Vick doesn’t stack up all that well. He takes too many sacks. He turns the ball over. He doesn’t make quick decisions. Plenty of people thought Vick would be a good fit for Kelly, but that was strictly due to his athleticism and the perception that he would be good with the read-option. Vick ran some option at Virginia Tech, but that was a very different offense and Vick didn’t always make great decisions. His explosiveness is what led to the long runs, not a precision option play. The Falcons mixed in the read-option in 2006. At that time, it was very new to the NFL and it was very effective. Vick became the first QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry. Interestingly, he only ran for 2 TDs.
The read-option is no longer new to the NFL. Just running it won’t mean a thing. You must execute it well. When you do that, as SF showed last year vs GB, you can have an explosive running offense. That then opens up the whole playbook and really puts the defense in a bind. Tim Tebow ran some option for Denver in 2011. That offense struggled mightily. Tebow has never been great at running the option. His first instinct is to keep the ball. The best option QBs are good decision-makers first and foremost. Think about guys like Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch at Nebraska 10 to 15 years ago. That offense was lethal because they knew when to keep it and when to pitch it. Watch Colin Kaepernick at Nevada or SF. He is an excellent decision-maker.
I have no idea what Kelly will think of Vick and the option. Kelly doesn’t just want good results. He wants things done a certain way, so that you can count on getting those results in future games. If Vick can make the read and execute the option the way Kelly wants it, that will make the Eagles offense interesting. With Va Tech and Atlanta, Vick felt the need to be the playmaker. In Kelly’s offense, he wants the QB to be a threat and occasional playmaker, but would much prefer the RB to be the primary runner.
The fascinating angle here is to see how Vick takes to Kelly’s coaching. Vick the lazy, uncoachable player is long since gone. He now works hard. He wants to be good. The problem that Vick faces now is one that plagues all veteran players…adjusting to new ideas. Donovan McNabb didn’t want to do things Mike Shanahan or Leslie Frazier’s way. He was used to Andy Reid’s style. Brett Favre was tough on the coaches of the Jets and the Vikings because he was used to doing things his way. Marty Schottenheimer had half of the Redskins team ready to quit back in 2001 because they didn’t like the way he wanted to do things.
Vick is a bit different in that his time in prison humbled him. Most star players have an enormous sense of entitlement. They’ve done things a certain way and that helped make them stars. Changing is hard. It goes against what they know and trust. Vick changed when he got to Philly. Can he now change again?
Kelly is coming from Oregon, where he had a great track record in getting QBs quickly acclimated to his offense and finding out the best way to use them. Senior Dennis Dixon was a Heisman candidate in 2007, his only season with Kelly. Sophomore Jeremiah Masoli took over the next year. He was a runner (10 TDs) as much as he was a passer (13 TDs). Kelly made that work and Oregon was 7th in the nation in yards and points. Sophomore Darron Thomas took over in 2010. He was more of a passer (30 TDs) than a runner (5 TDs) and Kelly adjusted for that. Oregon led the nation in yards and points. In 2012 it was Redshirt Freshman Marcus Mariota who took over. He threw for 32 TDs and proved to be a very capable passer. Mariota is also a gifted runner. He only ran for 5 TDs, but averaged 7 yards per carry (remember that sacks adjust that figure down). Oregon’s offense was 5th in yards and 2nd in scoring.
Kelly had 4 “new” starting QBs in his time at Oregon. They all thrived. Now he gets Vick. It is possible that Vick will take to Kelly’s coaching and turn out to be a good fit for the offense. One of the reasons that Vick held the ball in the last 3 years is that Andy Reid loved the big play. Kelly wants to run the ball and throw quick passes. That should take pressure off Vick and put him in a more favorable situation.
The flip side is that Vick is truly fighting for his job, something that hasn’t really happened to him since…junior high or elementary school. Vick got the starting job in 2010 based on a couple of games. He wasn’t in a QB competiton. Vick has always been a QB that looked erratic in practice, but games brought out the best in him. That won’t cut it this time around. A QB needs to emerge after the first couple of preseason games. That means the foundation has to be laid in May, June, and July. You can’t wait for the games. You must practice well.
The competition may bring out the best in Vick. Or the worst. Dealing with Kelly might prove to be a breath of fresh air. Or it could prove to be incredibly frustrating. We know Vick has the physical gifts to succeed in Kelly’s offense. What we’ll find out is if Vick has the QB skills and discipline to play in Kelly’s offense. Last year the most points the team scored with Vick was 24. Kelly would go nuts if his starting QB did that. Vick is going to have to fight just to get the job, but he will also be under pressure to keep it. Too many turnovers and not enough points will mean that you are hitting the bench, maybe the road.
I really am curious to see how this all plays out. Heck, this would be fascinating if it was the Arizona Cardinals and not our beloved Eagles. Chip Kelly is a really interesting coach and Michael Vick might be older, but he still has moments when your jaw just hits the floor and you say “wow”. Can Kelly bring out the best in Vick? We thought Andy Reid did in 2010, but that proved to be fool’s gold.
I have very mixed feelings in regard to Vick. Part of me would love to see him have a good year. That would mean the Eagles will be fun to watch and it would also mean winning some games. Another part of me wants Vick to struggle this summer so that one of the young guys can get the job. This isn’t personal with Vick. I just don’t know that I’ll ever fully trust him again. If he does play well in 2013, can you count on him to repeat that in 2014? I don’t want a good year. I want a good QB.
Eagles fans bought in back in 2010. Vick looked special. That made the erratic 2011 season so frustrating. But then I knew 2012 would be different. Boy, was I right…but in the wrong direction. There are lots of different things that hurt Vick in 2012, but the bottom line is that he simply didn’t play well. It isn’t like he had Charles Johnson and Darnell Autry out there with him. For whatever reason, Vick never looked right last year and that goes back to the preseason.
The biggest downside to Vick playing well would be his contract. He is here on a 1-year deal. If Vick lights it up, do you then sign him to another big deal? That would be a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
Vick can have a good year in 2013. Heck, he can have a great year. The potential is there. It really is up to him to show what he can do. Kelly is new to the NFL and there is no guarantee he’ll win, but I think his offensive track record is so strong that you can feel confident that the Eagles will move the ball and score points. Kelly has had success with all kinds of QBs: short, tall, slow, fast, runners, passers, black, white, West coast kids, East coast kids, etc, etc, etc. Kelly will adapt his system to fit the QB and the offensive players. He will find a way to make it work. All the QB has to do is execute the offense, not turn the ball over, and play smart.
Sounds easy, right?
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »
In the previous post, a discussion broke out about how Ifeanyi Momah would fit onto the roster. Is he a TE or a WR?
Momah played both spots at Boston College. He’s 6-7, 240. That is more of a TE build than a WR. He runs 4.45. That is more WR speed than TE. Momah is somewhat of a tweener, a man with unique ability but no obvious position. So what do you do?
Chip Kelly would tell you not to get caught up in positions. Kelly loves creating favorable matchups. Momah could thrive in that role. Put him out wide. If the defense puts a CB on him, throw the ball up high. If the defense puts a bigger S or LB on him, have Momah run by them. That may sound incredibly simplistic, but that’s actually how Chip Kelly thinks. Where Andy Reid plotted moves, counter-moves, counter-counter-moves, and so on, Chip keeps it simple.
* Run if the box is empty, throw if it is stacked.
* Find tall guys that can move around and catch the ball.
* Find quick/fast guys that can catch short passes and create big plays.
* Throw the ball to the open guy, whether short or deep.
Really, I think a lot of Kelly’s offense will be that simple. Now getting the players into those positions is a bit on the complicated side. That’s where years of coaching come into play. You must be able to design plays, call them in the right sequence and set them up for maximum effect. Kelly did this brilliantly at New Hampshire and Oregon.
Back to Momah. He is more of a WR. He runs fast, but doesn’t have ideal cutting or change-of-direction ability. Quickness and agility are more important to TEs than pure speed. That said, Chip Kelly just drafted Zach Ertz to play TE and really wanted him in large part to his ability to play like a WR. Kelly isn’t concerned about what position title Momah has. He wants a player that he can use creatively. And Momah is just that.
Dave Spadaro did a good interview with Momah that I somehow missed. Momah says he will block and that he will play STs. He’s already got the right attitude. No matter where he plays, Momah is going to be a role player in 2013…if he is even on the final roster. He isn’t a polished player and could be a practice squad candidate. We’ll see how things go.
I’ve got his good 2011 game on DVD (8 catches, 157 yards). I’ll see if I can find that and put the catches on YouTube. I’ve also probably got some 2010 games to check out. I’ll look into that this weekend.
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Cecil Lammey dug up some pretty impressive Matt Barkley stats. I am so curious to see him play and find out if we got a major steal or just a solid prospect with 1st round stats.
I got the stats from Sam. If you are on Twitter, make sure you follow Sam. Great source of info and opinions (unless he’s using his “facts” to pick apart my opinions).
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »
Yesterday Jimmy Bama put up a good post on the Eagles depth. He took a look at how things have changed since late in the 2012 season. He also ran through the various position groups and how things stack up.
Projecting depth at this time of the year is always tricky. At this time last year, Danny Watkins was a starting OG and a player we had high hopes for. Julian Vandervelde was a player we expected to be a solid backup. And no one had heard of Nate Menkin (except for Ma and Pa Menkin, of course). Things are even trickier this year because of the coaching change. The new coaches and new systems will have a positive effect on some players and an adverse effect on others.
I want to wait until after the first mini-camp to do a first depth chart. It will help to find out where some guys are lining up.
Here is the roster breakdown I’m expecting for the final 53:
QB – 3
RB – 4
WR – 5
TE – 2
H-back – 2
OL – 9
DL – 7
OLB – 4
ILB – 4
S – 5
CB – 5
STs – 3
Nothing is set in stone. As Chip Kelly likes to say, it is up to the players to set the depth chart. That will also be true with the roster. Kelly will keep the best 53 players. There are minimums at some positions, but you can go light or heavy at many spots, depending on what the coaching staff wants and which players play well.
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A lot of people are making a big deal out of the fact the Eagles have 5 QBs. I don’t really see the big deal. GJ Kinne is a camp body. He’s really not in the equation. Is it theoretically possible he could turn out to be the next Kurt Warner? Sure, but that is less likely than Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale fighting to the death over me (despite those two, the new Total Recall is not good, by the way). You really have 4 QBs fighting for 3 roster spots. This is exactly what the Eagles had last year (Vick, Foles, Kafka, Edwards).
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WR is the group that might be the most competitive. The team will keep 5 or 6. You have DeSean, Maclin, Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn, Ifeanyi Momah, Marvin McNutt, and BJ Cunningham battling it out. Momah is the guy that I’m most fascinated by. Avant is the one I’m most curious about. Does he still fit in?
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LB is still a mystery. At OLB, the big 3 are good (Barwin, Graham, Cole). After that, who knows. Phillip Hunt and Everette Brown are not natural fits for the 3-4. The Eagles brought in Trevor Scott for a visit yesterday. Chris McCoy is a potential backup, but is more of a longshot.
There are plenty of bodies at ILB. Now it is a matter of seeing who can play well and earn a backup spot. If the guys don’t impress early on, the Eagles could bring in a free agent.
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DL is somewhat of a mystery. We project Cox, Thornton, and Sopoaga as the starters. Bennie Logan will have a spot. For now, we’ll leave Vinny Curry as a DE. That’s 5 guys. The other 2 spots would be between Antonio Dixon, Paul Kruger, Ronnie Cameron, Clifton Geathers, David King, and Damion Square.
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Safety and CB are going to be very competitive areas. Kurt Coleman started 27 games over the last 2 years and is now the #4 Safety, at best. Chung, Allen, and Phillips are ahead of him. Earl Wolff is there to compete with him. And the tough part here is that Colt Anderson is really the #5 Safety. He’ll be active and play because of STs so there are really only 4 open spots. Coleman might be on the outside looking in.
We know the top 3 CBs, but after that, things are wide open. Could this be the year that Trevard Lindley actually makes the team and sticks? Curtis Marsh is no longer keeping a spot because he was a 3rd round pick. He must earn that spot. Brandon Hughes was a favorite of the previous staff, but the new coaches might prefer Lindley’s size. Eddie Whitley is a S/CB tweener and that versatility could help him. I think Jordan Poyer has an excellent chance to make the team, if he does his part on the field.
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Mike Vick and Shady McCoy raced. Vick won. To some, this was a big deal. Shady has never been fast. When Vick was in his prime, he was one of the fastest players in the history of the NFL. Vick has slowed down over the years, but he still should be faster than Shady. If Vick outruns DeSean, then we’ve got a story. Or if Nick Foles beats Shady in a race…STORY!!!
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Just a reminder…make sure to check out EaglesBlog from time to time. I’m still posting regular links and updates over there.
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Sheil Kapadia has a couple of good items on Matt Barkley and Bennie Logan.
Posted: May 2nd, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 30 Comments »
I decided to pop in the NC State/FSU game to check out Earl Wolff. He didn’t have a bunch of tackles in the game and FSU had a very good run game so I was curious what was going on. Plus. FSU has some serious athletes on offense.
Overall, he played well. He’s far from perfect, but you can see why the Eagles liked him. Some observations/notes:
* Wolff was credited with 6 tackles (2 solo).
* Plays boundary Safety. This means that he lines up on the short side of the field. In college, offenses/defenses have to make strategic decisions based on the width of the field. Defenses want 6 players to the wide side. Offense like to attack the short side since there are fewer players and more chances for big plays. The rule of thumb is to put the best tacklers and most physical players on the boundary side.
* Generally lines up 10 yards off the ball.
* In this game, Wolff was aggressive. There were a handful of plays where his assignment was to drop deep, but mostly his first step was going forward.
* He tackled well. I saw one missed tackle. RB Chris Thompson made an amazing play by the sideline to break free from a defender and then got by Wolff as well.
* My favorite play came in a 3rd/short situation. Wolff lined up close to the LOS. The play went to his left. He went over and put his shoulder into the RG. That clogged the hole and someone else got the RB from behind to force a punt. Eagles Safeties haven’t been real keen on engaging OL in recent years.
* Wolff did give up a short TD. He bought the play fake and took one false step. The TE/H-back got behind him and got the pass for a TD. Wolff was just a bit out of position, but his aggression got the best of him there.
* I still don’t have a good feel for his coverage skills. He wasn’t in man coverage hardly at all. There weren’t many good shots that showed him covering deep.
* Wolff didn’t have a chance for many plays. FSU ran to the wide side quite a bit.
* I thought Wolff generally took good angles. There were 2 runs by Thompson where he was a bit out of position, but I have to stress that this is due to Thompson’s explosive speed. Watching this game reminded me just how much I loved Thompson. If 100 percent healthy, he’d have been my #1 RB. Wolff adjusted to his speed and was better on other plays.
* Wolff didn’t have to deal with much in the way of trash or blockers. He got tangled up with a WR on one edge run.
* I love Wolff’s wrap-up tackling.
* No big hits, but he did come up very aggressively vs a WR and was going to pop him good, but the guy ducked. Too bad. Would have been nice to see what kind of hit that was going to be.
* Wolff is just a good, solid player. There is nothing compelling about him (size, playmaking, game speed, etc.). I think that is why he fell down to the 5th round. I think he has the potential to be a starter in the NFL. At the least, he should be a good backup and STer.
I’ve got a few more games to watch. Hopefully I’ll get a better feel for his cover skills and his ability to diagnose plays.