You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 64 Comments »

Chip Kelly and his coaches have ideal player types. They want tall, athletic OL. They want OLBs that can rush, cover and play the run. They prefer tall, long CBs that can press. And so on.

Wanting those players and finding those players are 2 different things.

Teams have a limited set of choices. As I like to joke, they can’t just go down to the Player Store and head to the LB aisle. “Let’s see if pass rushers are on sale this week or if maybe they’ve got the brand new models in. They’re expensive, but man are they cool.”

While Kelly and Bill Davis might want complete OLBs, they’ll have to settle for what they can get. The same is true at most positions. Safety is another such spot. Davis has talked about the fact he wants to get to the point where there is no FS or SS,  but rather similar players that are the Right Safety and Left Safety.

That is a great goal, but the draft isn’t loaded with Safeties who are complete players. The Eagles brought in Deone Bucannon for a visit. He’s 6-1, 216, which is big for a Safety. He is a physical hitter with some coverage limitations. This shows you that the Eagles are being realistic.

Would you rather have a Safety that has okay ability vs the run and pass or would you rather have someone who can be a physical presence and then needs work on his cover skills?

There is no right answer, per se. The argument for a guy like Bucannon is that he can at least stand out in one area. He might have some issues, but that might be worth it if he can be a difference-maker at what he does well. You hope that the player then develops skills in the area where he is deficient. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The Eagles are being reasonable with their expectations. They have talked to a pair of OL that at 6-3, 310. They looked at Will Clarke, a DT/DE tweener, as a potential OLB. They’ve shown interest in CBs that lack the Eagles preferred size.

The interesting part of all this will be to see where the Eagles make compromises, so to speak. And then it will be interesting to see how those players work out over time.

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Anthony Barr, CJ Spiller…Big Rumor Day

Posted: April 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

The most interesting nugget of the day comes from Geoff Mosher. He reported on Monday that the Eagles called Buffalo to inquire about C.J. Spiller.

Before they traded for Darren Sproles, the Eagles first tried to add a younger, more dynamic weapon to their offense.

The Eagles contacted the Bills this offseason with hopes of trading for versatile Pro Bowl running back C.J. Spiller, according to two league sources familiar with the situation. The Bills weren’t interested in moving Spiller, both sources said, and talks never heightened into an offer.

But it’s clear that the Eagles were looking to add a different dimension to their offense as they prepared to part ways with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson, another indication that Chip Kelly had planned to move on from Jackson well before the team released him March 28.

Spiller would be an ideal player for Kelly and his offense. Spiller can be a WR or RB. And he has explosive speed. He is a home run threat any time he touches the ball.

It sounds like the Eagles called to see if Spiller was available, not that the Bills were shopping him. It can’t hurt to ask, but obviously the idea got shot down pretty quickly.

It is interesting to find out that Kelly wanted a dynamic receiving RB. The Sproles addition seemed like just an opportunistic move. Asking about Spiller shows you that Kelly wanted that kind of a specific player.

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Tim McManus posted another interesting nugget. He reported that OLB Anthony Barr will be coming to Philly for a pre-draft visit. Within that piece, there is another bit of news I wasn’t aware of.

In a recent podcast on the team’s website, Brian Baldinger said that Eagles outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern went to UCLA to work Barr out.

“Say he’s there at 15 or 16. And I’m well aware that the Eagles only have six draft picks, they don’t have a whole lot of ammunition. But if that’s your biggest glaring need — and to me, the right outside linebacker position would complete this defense in some ways — why wouldn’t you be aggressive?” Baldinger asked.

So we now have Bill McGovern going to West Va to work out Will Clarke, a mid-rounder, and going to UCLA to work out Barr, a 1st rounder. Interesting.

I’m sure the Eagles do have serious interest in Barr. He is the kind of OLB I think they would love. Barr is 6-5, 255. He is an athletic edge rusher, but can also cover and play in space. Chip will have some knowledge of Barr from his Oregon days. He might have even recruited Barr a few years back.

If Barr falls far enough, I’d move up for him. The problem is that I just don’t expect Barr to fall that far.

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Jimmy Bama has a good nugget of his own. He says that the Eagles have shown serious interest in OLB prospect Ronald Powell from Florida. The former No. 1 high school player in the country didn’t have the college career that he expected.

Powell is an intriguing prospect. His college career hit a bump when he tore his ACL during the spring of 2012. Powell missed the entire 2012 season, but returned in 2013, when he had 4 sacks. Unless you’re Adrian Peterson, there’s a belief that it takes 2 years or longer to fully recover from a torn ACL.

Powell would be a mid-to-late round pick, but would be a good target. He could develop into a starter or might prove to be an effective backup and STer. He is a gifted athlete.

Jimmy has some videos over at the link. Go check ‘em out.

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Why don’t we stick with the OLB topic?

Chip Kelly was at Smith’s Pro Day. The Eagles also saw him up close at the Senior Bowl. Either they have serious interest or they are putting on a heck of a smokescreen. My guess is that Smith could go in the late 2nd round.

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UConn DE/LB Jesse Joseph worked out with the Eagles a few days ago.

None of the other Connecticut participants outside of Smallwood and Stephen are likely to be drafted, but the best prospect among the rest is defensive end Jesse Joseph, who had a fairly strong showing in his pro day workout.

Joseph put his versatility as an edge defender on display by participating in both defensive end and linebacker drills. He showed explosion going through the defensive line drills. Though he looked somewhat unnatural backpedaling and flipping his hips as you would expect for a defensive end, he looked relatively fluid for a player who typically has his hand in the dirt, while he did a good job catching the football in drills.

His numbers in the measurable drills weren’t good enough to bolster his draft stock, but they were adequate. He was hand timed at 4.83 seconds on both of his 40-yard dash attempts, while he recorded a 29 1/2” vertical, 8’6” broad jump and 19 repetitions in the bench press. He recorded impressive hand times of 4.19 seconds in the short shuttle and 7.26 seconds in the 3-cone drill.

“I think I did good,” Joseph said in an interview following his workout. “I did everything I could to leave everything on the field.”

Joseph said he could see himself playing either defensive end or linebacker at the next level. His sales pitch to an NFL team, he said, starts with being a hard worker.

“I’m a hard worker. I’m a competitor. I don’t let fatigue get to me when it’s that time for me to step on the field, and I can do more than one thing.”

Joseph said he has an individual workout scheduled with the Philadelphia Eagles for April 10, and added that he was “waiting on a couple more calls” from NFL teams.

Another LB to consider in the late rounds.

Here’s an interesting question. Does anyone else think the guy in this pic looks like Jerry Azzinaro?

He would have been at UConn to work out DL Shamar Stephen, who could be a DE target of the Eagles. In that pic, the coach/scout is working with Joseph.

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The OLB Situation

Posted: April 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 100 Comments »

I’ve covered this a few times, but it is worth discussing again. The Eagles need help at OLB. They are set at LOLB with Connor Barwin. He is just about perfect for what the Eagles want there. Barwin can play the run. He can cover. And he is an effective pass rusher. Ideally they would prefer a more explosive athlete who could bring more pressure off the edge, but Barwin is pretty darn good.

The ROLB situation is different. The Eagles need help. In a fantasy world they would be able to add someone that was a complete LB. The goal then would be to not have offenses know which guy was going to rush and which one was going to drop back in coverage. Coaches love flexibility.

While that is the ultimate goal, it isn’t a realistic goal. There just aren’t many guys that can fly off the edge and drop back and cover well. Dion Jordan is one such guy and that’s the reason the Eagles were talking to the Dolphins about a trade. That’s not likely to happen so the Eagles are now focused on finding LB help in the draft.

For now, the Eagles are looking for a pass rusher.

The ROLB is going to face LTs most of the time. Occasionally he’ll get blocked by a TE or RB, but mostly it will be the LT. That guy is the top pass blocker on the offense. The ROLB must be able to win enough battles against a LT to be disruptive to the offense. You cannot just stick any player at ROLB and expect to have success.

The player must be a natural pass rusher. He must be a good athlete. Being an effort guy or a power guy will only get you so far. The player needs some explosive traits. So when we talk about fits for ROLB, look for pass rushers with some athletic and explosive potential.

Adrian Hubbard of Alabama isn’t a pass rusher. Nor is he explosive. The Eagles might look at him as a backup at ROLB, but they won’t see him as The Answer to that spot. They’ll need to spend a pick in the first 3 rounds to find a likely answer. You never know when you’ll find the next Trent Cole, but those guys coming out of the 5th round is rare. You generally need to invest early picks to find pass rushers.

I put together thoughts on some of the top guys over at ScoutsNotebook.

I didn’t have time to cover everyone in great depth, but wanted to give you an idea of what I thought about the top prospects, good and bad.

I’m sure there will be more than a few disagreements with my thoughts. That’s okay. It is part of what makes draft discussions so much fun. We watch the same players, but see very different things.

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Will Clarke

Posted: April 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 64 Comments »

The idea of drafting Will Clarke to be the ROLB is growing on me. Clarke was a DE/DT for West Virginia. That makes sense for a guy who is 6-6, 271. Clarke flashed at both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, but I was stuck on the idea of him as a DE, even in the 3-4. I didn’t like him as a fit for the Eagles.

Moving him to LB is a different story. I hadn’t even considered the idea until I read Tony Pauline’s report that the Eagles worked him out as a LB. Here is the workout, which was run by Eagles OLB coach Bill McGovern. (Clarke is the tall guy with long hair)

You can see that he is a good athlete. Clarke isn’t your typical 6-6, 271 guy. He’s not a freak athlete like Dion Jordan, but that’s okay. Jordan was the rare LB that could cover like a DB. Clarke has no coverage experience, but he is a good pass rusher. His sack total won’t blow you away, but part of that is due to WVa’s defense (scheme and lack of talent).

I think Clarke is an ascending player who could be a much better pro than college player. Put him on the edge and let him rush. Put some good players around him and I think he’ll be that much more effective.

Clarke would appeal to the Eagles because of his size and versatility. He has the kind of build that Chip Kelly would love in an OLB. He’s basically the same size as Clyde Simmons, if that helps to put things in perspective. Clarke played all over at WV. He was on the left side and right side. He was DT and DE. He lined up out wide and in tight. When you put on the tape, you’re going to see Dee Ford at the same spot almost every play. Clarke moves around, which is something the Eagles like.

What is his draft value? Interesting question. I think Clarke will go in the 3rd or 4th round. I’d have no problem with the Eagles using their 3rd rounder on him. This, of course, assumes there are no character issues or anything like that.

Of course I’d prefer for the Eagles to get Anthony Barr or Jeremiah Attaochu and guys on that level, but Clarke has really grown on me as a non-1st round target. I’d much rather the Eagles take a chance on Clarke than someone like Demarcus Lawrence, who doesn’t stand out to me at all. There is risk with Clarke, but you could always try to bulk him up and move him to DE if the LB experiment failed.

Here is a game.

And here are some highlights.

Don’t expect to see some dominant player that will blow your socks off. There is a reason he’s being looked at in the 3rd/4th round area. Clarke is talented and has potential, but does need some work. I also think WV mis-used him by playing him in traffic so much. He looks much more natural in space.

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Biggies

Posted: April 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 25 Comments »

Chip Kelly likes his players big. He’s made no secret of that since coming to Philly. For this week’s PE.com column, I took a look at some of the players in this draft class that the kind of size that will get Kelly’s attention. An OL who is 6-5, 300…not a big deal. A WR who is 6-2, 215…not a big deal. I went for the guys who have rare size.

I really can’t wait until this draft is over. We’ll then have 2 draft classes in the book and we’ll hopefully start to see some patterns for how the Eagles are going to do things under Kelly. I don’t doubt that the Eagles would take a small WR. But would they do it in the 1st round?

I would love for the Eagles to shock me and draft Lamarcus Joyner to come be a Safety. He is small, but he is a gifted player that will knock the pudding out of you (I assume most players eat pudding as part of a pregame ritual).

Even if the Eagles make moves I don’t love, it will just be nice to have more data to study so we can try to figure out how they think. We’ll look at who they draft, but also who they pass on. When the Eagles didn’t take Geno Smith last year at #4 (when many thought that might happen), we figured that just meant they didn’t have a super high grade on him. When the Eagles also passed on him in the 2nd round, we learned that Geno just wasn’t a player the Eagles had much interest in, if any.

The more we see, the better we can try to figure out how Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman think in regard to the draft.

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Why would the Eagles be checking out a C? Because he played LG his first couple of years at USC. Here he is going up against Notre Dame. I think you can see why teams are high on him.

Chip Kelly is familiar with Martin. Kelly watched him play in high school…since Martin was opening holes for some guy named De’Anthony Thomas, who went on to be a star for Kelly at Oregon. Martin is 6-3, 320 and has long arms (34 inches).

Martin would make sense for the Eagles since he can play C or G. He is a good run blocker. He’s got a nasty disposition and is the kind of physical player you want to run behind.

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Wyoming WR Robert Herron talked to the Eagles on his Pro Day. He’s only 5-9, 193, but runs 4.48 and has a 35-inch vertical. He impressed at the Senior Bowl and had a terrific last couple of years at UW. He was a big play guy in 2012 (31-657-8), but more of a workhorse receiver this past year (72-937-9).

I worked out with the Carolina Panthers. I’m going there to visit with them again. Then the Dolphins are planning to work me out after that visit. The Rams contacted me. At my pro day, I talked beforehand to the Eagles and the Chiefs and afterwards to the Patriots and the Cowboys. My agent said you never know what team may pick you, so just stay open-minded, don’t get attached to one team liking you. It’s just a toss-up, really.

Teams want to verify some things about your background, how you rate your play. They want to know, does it translate to how they do things? And you just watch things on film. I rate my play at Wyoming very high, just because it’s all about opportunities. When you get the ball, what can you do with it? When the ball’s thrown your way, are you going to catch it? Are you going to make something happen? I feel like the majority of the time, I made the play that I had to make.

Herron would make a lot of sense for the Eagles. He has the build and skill set to be good in the slot, but he is also a good downfield receiver. He is one of the best route-runners in the draft. He has great hands. Herron also has outstanding RAC ability. Fun player to watch.

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