OTA Roundup – Week 2

Posted: May 29th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on OTA Roundup – Week 2

The Eagles had another practice session that was open to the media. Let’s check in and see what went on.

First up is Jeff McLane. He was impressed by Carson Wentz.

I wasn’t expecting more from Carson Wentz after his surprising involvement in last Tuesday’s practice, but there he was doing an extensive amount of on-field work at the start of the second week. The quarterback once again participated in every individual drill, but he also partook in 2-on-2 passing drills. I used this line last week, but it applies again: If it weren’t for the brace Wentz was wearing, it would be difficult to discern that he was five months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. He ran through the same motions as his counterparts. He jogged without a hitch. He had velocity on his throws, and dare I say, the balls appeared to be moving at a faster pace than last year. And he was accurate, even when throwing against defenders. After the first set of individual drills, Wentz worked alone on a side field under the eyes of a trainer or two. He ran 20-yard sprints while pulling a weight that was leashed to his waist. When the first set of team drills ended, he rejoined the quarterbacks for more throwing drills. It was then back to another empty field for a series of solo sprints. And when Wentz finished those, he watched the rest of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills from behind the offense.

It is hard not to be really encouraged with Wentz right now. He’s doing this in a safe setting, but he’s moving around confidently and he looks natural. Some guys coming off ACLs look stiff and awkward. They are scared to bend the knee and make quick movements. Wentz is beyond that.

The big test for him will be dealing with contact. He has to prove he can take hits to the leg and not let it bother him. A QB can’t be worrying about his lower leg while also looking for pass rushers and reading the defensive coverage.

*****

Next up is Brandon Lee Gowton.

One of my biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s practice is that De’Vante Bausby is legitimately a name to watch this offseason. The 25-year-old cornerback first stood out in last week’s OTA practice and he followed that up with another strong outing today. Bausby lined up as the Eagles’ first team nickel corner and did a nice job of covering Nelson Agholor at times. He made a leaping pass breakup on a Nick Foles throw to Agholor over the middle of the field. He also had tight coverage on a number of plays. Jim Schwartz praised Bausby prior to Tuesday’s session.

He’s a competitive player. He did a really good job for us on the scout teams last year. He was ready to play for us last year if need be. He did a great job not just on the practice field but in the meeting room, being up on the game plan. We were fortunate that we didn’t have so many injuries there that he needed to go. But he was ready, and he had the confidence of the coaching staff. He sort of spread his wings a little bit, working in some different positions. He’s a very, very competitive player. He’s got good size, but his competitiveness stands out. You guys will see that.

You didn’t see him in training camp last year. You guys will see that in training camp this year. I’m excited about him. We’re all excited about the contributions he made to our team last year, and what he can do this year. Again, his contributions were behind the scenes last year. But we have a lot of guys that have an impact on Sunday that might not be playing.

He worked the offense hard last year. I think those guys have respect for him, and I know our coaches have respect for him.

Bausby was on the Chiefs’ roster bubble last year before getting cut and signing with the Eagles’ practice squad. There’s still way too much offseason left to call him a lock but he’s certainly trending in the right direction early on. The Eagles might have even more competition at corner than they previously thought, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Bausby got mentioned multiple times by Doug Pederson during the offseason so this is no fluke. The Eagles think this guy can play. While the team is deep at CB, there is always room for someone else with good cover skills. You never know when someone else will go down.

The Eagles are having a competition to see who can win the slot job. As Schwartz mentioned today, there isn’t a lot of competition at the moment because this is such limited football. This is more about getting players ready for Training Camp. Still, it doesn’t hurt to play well and get the attention of the coaching staff. Bausby is off to a good start in that regard.

One place the Eagles definitely need depth is at Safety.

Tre Sullivan stood out a few times today, in a good way. He broke up a Foles pass to Marquess Wilson. Then he picked off Sudfeld clean on a play where he diagnosed what was going on and jumped a route. Sullivan even showed off his physicality by putting a big pop on Donnel Pumphrey after the running back tried to run his way along the sideline. It’ll be interesting to see if Sullivan and/or Reaves can earn a roster spot. (Especially given that it sounds like Corey Grahamis bound to come back. Jim Schwartz praised the free agent veteran prior to practice.)

Sullivan showed last year that he is a big time hitter. That’s just not enough in today’s NFL. You must be able to cover and handle multiple roles. Sullivan has a huge chance to impress the coaches this offseason. Now that he’s got a year of NFL (practice squad) experience under his belt, the coverage side of things should come easier for Sullivan.

*****

Fran Duffy and Chris McPherson posted some good notes for PE.com.

13. Kamu Grugier-Hill exploded downhill on a perimeter run for what would have been a tackle for loss. When he cuts it loose his athleticism is something to see – pound for pound he’s one of the most athletic guys on the team in my eyes. – FD

17. The Eagles used Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill as the first-team linebackers in the nickel package on Tuesday. This is merely for evaluation purposes. Fran already noted Grugier-Hill’s athleticism. I like Gerry’s play-recognition skills. In fact, Nigel Bradham said after practice that Gerry’s knowledge of the defense is right up there with the veterans in the locker room. – CM

This is the time of the year to experiment with young players. KGH has big time athleticism. He easily could be a starting LB based on that. KGH has to prove to the coaches that he can handle the physicality of the role and the mental side of things. He’s great on STs, where your job is simpler. There isn’t a lot to read. You go attack. Offenses do a lot of complex things and love to force defenders into paralysis by analysis. Some guys have great instincts and know what to do. KGH seems to be working on this.

As for Gerry, he showed good potential last year. He could be a guy to keep an eye on this summer.

10. The squad split up into two sets of half-field 7-on-7 drills. I stuck with one side while C-Mac stuck on the other. Here were the takeaways:

  • Greg Ward ran a razor-sharp stop route on the first play, snaring a reception against rookie corner Chandon Sullivan, who fell to the ground on the play and left briefly with an injury. The undrafted rookie from Georgia State would return later in the period to get a pass breakup against Shelton Gibson.
  • Richard Rodgers caught a pass from Carson Wentz on a dig route over the middle of the field. It was one of a couple of catches in the deep or intermediate area for the former Green Bay Packer.
  • Dallas Goedert started to shine in this period. The rookie beat Jeremy Reaves early on and followed that up with an impressive grab against fellow first-year player Stephen Roberts.
  • Jalen Mills, who was his usual feisty self throughout the afternoon, posted an emphatic pass breakup in a matchup against Ward.
  • Second-year running back Donnel Pumphrey ran an awesome Texas route in the middle of the field against rookie Asante Brown for what would have been a significant gain.

Ward had a good showing last spring. This is the time of the year for him to excel. The challenge this year will be maintaining that in TC and making plays in the preseason games. Ward has the potential to be a solid slot receiver.

It is good to hear Rodgers and Goedert are playing well so far. Goedert is the real key here. Rodgers isn’t going to suddenly turn into this great player. He was effective with the Packers, but that’s about it. Goedert is the guy who can give the offense a good chess piece to work with. He doesn’t need to be a volume receiver, but if he can be a good role player, that will help quite a bit.

A few people had good notes on Pumphrey. That’s encouraging. Last summer and the the season itself had to be incredibly humbling. That can really shake a guy’s confidence. Every little play that he makes on the field can help rebuild his confidence.

_


Checking in on Nate Sudfeld

Posted: May 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

A year ago, not many Eagles fans had heard of Nate Sudfeld. He had a solid career at Indiana, but hardly anything spectacular. He was the number three QB for the Skins, but there wasn’t much talk about him developing into a starter in the future.

The Skins cut Sudfeld last September and the Eagles called him right away. They wanted Sudfeld for the practice squad. The coaches obviously made a good pitch and convinced Sudfeld to come to Philly. Around midseason, the Colts tried to sign Sudfeld to their roster. He talked with the Eagles and they decided to offer him a roster spot. The coaches had seen enough over the first eight weeks to decide they valued Sudfeld and wanted to keep him.

After the injury to Carson Wentz, the coaches began talking about Sudfeld publicly. They expressed their confidence in him as the team’s backup QB. Rather than sign a veteran, they stuck with the player who had been with them since September.

Sudfeld got to play in the season finale. Nick Foles got a few series and then was tucked away for safe keeping. Sudfeld brought some energy to the game, but was up and down. His biggest highlight was this run.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/947559182848233472

Fran Duffy took a look at sever passing plays.

You can see Sudfeld has potential, but he still needs plenty of work.

The coaches spoke so highly of Sudfeld from December on that there started to be some hype around him. That made it disappointing when Sudfeld only looked so-so at the OTA practice that was open to the media last week.

You have to be careful at this time of year, good or bad.

Donnel Pumphrey looked terrific last May. Patrick Robinson was dreadful. Or worse. Obviously things were very different by late August. Pumphrey was the bum and Robinson had turned into a key player for the defense.

Sudfeld is in his first offseason with the Eagles. He has a new offensive coordinator and a new QB coach. He’s also the backup QB. That didn’t mean much in the December practices because starters get almost all the reps. Now Sudfeld is getting a lot of work. That will take some getting used to.

This offseason is a huge opportunity for Sudfeld. He needs to show the Eagles (and the rest of the league) that he is capable of being a good backup, or even better, a future starter. Don’t get too up or down on him based on May and June. Training Camp and preseason games will be the real keys for Sudfeld. Still, it will be interesting to see what the practice reports say about him for the next month.

_


Saturday Night Ramblings

Posted: May 26th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Saturday Night Ramblings

The NFL Network has been showing episodes of America’s Game, the story of each Super Bowl winner.

As much as I love NFL history, shows like that used to bug me. Now that the Eagles are part of the fraternity, it feels different. I don’t have to be bitter or jealous that the 1969 Chiefs or 1970 Colts won titles (I just happened to catch those episodes today). The Eagles have their Super Bowl. They are part of NFL history.

Feels so good to know that.

*****

I re-watched parts of some games earlier today for a piece I was writing. I forgot that Fletcher Cox missed part of the Giants game and then all of the Chargers and Cardinals games.

I also forgot Jaylen Watkins is the guy who replaced Ronald Darby. That didn’t last long. Watkins got hurt and missed several games.

Seems like that was a lifetime ago.

*****

Going back to the NFL history thing for a second…I hope one of the benefits of the Super Bowl win is that fans can now be more appreciative of the title teams of 1948, 1949 and 1960. Those were amazing teams and they won NFL titles.

It just happened that they won it all before the Super Bowl existed. Go tell Vince Lombardi that his title teams of 1961, 1962 and 1965 mean less than his Super Bowl teams of 1966 and 1967. I’m sure he’d crawl out of his grave and knock you upside the head. An NFL championship is an NFL championship.

I think the problem for Eagles fans is that embracing those title somehow felt bad because the Cowboys, Giants and Skins all had Super Bowl wins. The Giants and Skins also had NFL titles to look back on. Now Eagles fans can point to their Super Bowl win, but also acknowledge the great teams of Steve Van Buren, Chuck Bednarik and Norm Van Brocklin.

Speaking of Eagles history…for those of you who like to read about the old days, here is a fun look back at the 1951 Eagles. Did you know Bud Grant was an Eagles player? He is most known for being the coach of the Vikings when they lost four Super Bowls. Grant was a good player and even better coach.

He’s also one of the great characters in league history.

Sleeveless at -6? What the heck would Sam Bradford say about that?

_


Eagles Add a LB

Posted: May 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

With Paul Worrilow out for the year, the Eagles needed help at LB.

On the Seth Joyner to Ernie Sims scale, he’s much closer to The Shark, unfortunately.

Wilson was the MLB for Arkansas State and led the team in tackles. He is 5-11, 229. Put on the tape and you see some things to like. He is a wrap-up tackler. He’s got some pop when he hits. Physical player. He is patient and shows good vision. He fills well.

The problem is that he’s got stiff hips. Wilson can go hit what’s in front of him, but he can’t open his hips and go flying out wide. Check out his agility drills and you see that confirmed. His shuttle time of 4.75 and 3-cone time of 7.72 wouldn’t be good for an O-lineman that was 300 pounds. They’re absolutely horrible for a LB. Levon Kirkland from 2002 would have posted better numbers.

I wish him all the luck in the world and hope he proves me dead wrong, but he sure looks like a camp body.

*****

I wrote a piece for PE.com on the Eagles size.

Chip Kelly built big teams and then focused on playing fast. There is something of a logical gap in that thinking.

Doug Pederson built big teams and then focused on that size. He mixed in tempo at times, but used that as a tool rather than making it the foundation of his team. That is some pretty smart thinking.

Building a big, physical team isn’t enough.

I recently watched the All of Nothing series on Dallas. Very good. Time and again Jason Garrett talks about being physical up front. Dallas has a terrific O-line and run game, but that’s not enough in today’s NFL. You must be a good passing team. Not just play-action, but you must be able to throw the ball vertically and efficiently.

Andy Reid loved having a giant O-line. He then had them pass block 40 times a game. He wouldn’t commit to running the ball on a regular basis.

Pederson is somewhere between Garrett and Reid. Pederson has built a team that can physically overwhelm you, but also can sling the ball around. The highlight of the All or Nothing series for me came when LB Anthony Hitchens was doing prep work on the Eagles and said “Their receivers are always wide open.”

That’s not an accident, my man.

Pederson and his staff did a brilliant job of scheming and gameplanning. Pederson then did a great job of calling plays on gameday. Combine that with a huge O-line and physical RBs and you have an offense that was dominant for most of the year.

It also helps you bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

_


Pumping Up

Posted: May 24th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Pumping Up

To say Donnel Pumphrey had a disappointing rookie season would be a slight understatement. He might have come up big in May and June, but he was small in July and August. Downright tiny, you might even say. He came up way short of expectations. After going on injured reserve, all he could do was spend the season trying to get better, little by little.

It sounds like Pumphrey learned quite a bit. Marcus Hayes wrote an excellent piece on Pumphrey. This wasn’t your typical offseason “he’s in great shape” piece. Hayes got Pumphrey to admit that he wasn’t ready for the NFL and Duce Staley’s tough coaching.

“Last year, me and [Duce] weren’t as good as we are now,” Pumphrey said Tuesday after the Eagles’ first OTA session. “I was taking a lot of criticism from him. I needed to look myself in the mirror, and just learn from him.”

Pumphrey was a great college player. His size wasn’t an issue and he piled up the most yards in NCAA history. Pumphrey got to the NFL and things changed. He had Staley pushing him hard, which can be challenging for any RB. Pumphrey also had to adjust to being part of a RB group rather than a workhorse. Oh yeah, there was also the challenge of going against NFL defenders every day.

Pumphrey needed to get stronger mentally and emotionally. It sure sounds like going from college star to NFL scrub got his attention. Rather than blaming Staley or his teammates, Pumphrey acknowledged his issues and dealt with them.

Knowing his job is on the line, Pumphrey also got stronger physically.

Pumphrey visited teammate Darren Sproles in San Diego for cross-fit-style training sessions that left Pumphrey retching into garbage cans. He now weighs 186 pounds, about the same as his training-camp weight last year but now sculpted, with wider shoulders, broader chest. thicker thighs.

Pumphrey also had a man-to-man talk with Staley a few weeks ago. He came away a better man than he was this time last year.

Training with Sproles and talking to Staley is a good way to get better. Sproles has been in the league since 2005. He knows a thing or two about how an undersized player can have a successful career. Staley played for a decade and is now in his 8th year as a coach. He knows what it takes from the perspective of a player and a coach.

The biggest issue for Pumphrey is being small. He is legitimately doing something about that.

He visited Sproles in San Diego for five cross-fit-type training sessions. Sproles, who will turn 35 next month, is 5-6 and 190 pounds of bionic maniac. From him, Pumphrey learned what it takes for a little man to make it in a big man’s league.

“We’d be, like, lifting, and the trainers would give us a 10-minute break,” Pumphrey said. “And Darren would go over to the treadmill, and turn it up as fast as it would go, and sprint the entire rest time. It’s unreal. First day, I was yakkin’. And he’s still going, full reps.”

Pumphrey needs to have a good spring, but the real test for him will be August. He must play well in Training Camp and in the preseason if he’s got any chance to make this team and carve out a career for himself.

*****

This isn’t a case of Corey Nelson vs Mychal Kendricks. You have to factor age and cost into the equation. Nelson is younger and cheaper, which is important for a player who will be the #3 LB on a team that plays two of them most of the time.

In terms of ability, Nelson has better cover skills. That is important to Jim Schwartz and the Eagles. While Kendricks was athletically gifted, he had poor instincts when it came to pass coverage. Nelson is a good athlete and shows a good feel for man coverage.

There is risk here. Kendricks is the more talented player and he’s got far more experience. Nelson is the better fit from an overall perspective so that’s why the Eagles made the move.

All the more reason to cut Kendricks. That’s a lot of cap space.

Will the Eagles use that to sign Brandon Graham to an extension? Will they re-sign Corey Graham? Will they add a backup MLB with Paul Worrilow now out?

They have options.

_