Back to the 4-3

Posted: June 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 88 Comments »

Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox both played in the 4-3 as rookies. It was a 1-gap, attacking defense similar to the one that Jim Schwartz will run this year. Cox had a great position coach in Jim Washburn, but only had him for part of the season. Kendricks had a solid LB coach in Mike Caldwell.

Both Cox and Kendricks suffered due to the defensive coordinator shuffle. Juan Castillo wasn’t doing a great job at the beginning of the year, but things went awry when he was fired at the bye week. Todd Bowles took over the defense and tried to change the scheme to something he preferred. Making changes on the fly proved to be a bad idea and the whole defense just fell apart. Still we could see that Cox and Kendricks were talented players.

Let’s take a look back at Cox and Kendricks playing in the 4-3.

I’m excited to see the Eagles running the 4-3 defense once again, and also with a proven DC who knows exactly what he’s doing.


Positive Vibes for Bradford

Posted: June 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 75 Comments »

Most people were happy Sam Bradford re-signed with the Eagles. He wasn’t an ideal solution, but, as the Broncos can certainly tell you, there weren’t great QB options this offseason. Then Bradford lost a lot of support with the way he handled the Carson Wentz situation.

After 3 weeks of OTAs, it feels like things are once again good in the land of Sammy Sleeves. Les Bowen wrote a good piece on Bradford.

“Same old Sam,” wideout Josh Huff said Friday. “He’s been a leader in the huddle, been a leader in the meeting room, and he’s demanding perfection out of each and every one of us.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who reiterated Friday that Bradford is his No. 1 quarterback, was asked whether Bradford has separated himself from backup Chase Daniel and rookie Carson Wentz, the player the Eagles traded up to draft second overall, spurring Bradford to want to start anew elsewhere.

“I think so. I think he’s done an outstanding job,” Pederson said. “Again, when you’re spreading reps equally, with three guys, that’s what you want to see, and I think he’s really done a nice job and taken that next step to be the leader of this football team and be the starter.”

Some of this is boilerplate. If Bradford weren’t embracing his role as QB-for-now, Pederson wouldn’t announce that from behind a lectern. Teammates might or might not assert that everything was just great, depending on the teammate, and maybe on the presence or absence of TV cameras. But you can read someone’s manner. When it comes to discussing Bradford, there seems to be enthusiasm and maybe a little relief in the Eagles’ ranks.

That last bit is really interesting. I think Les has a pretty good BS meter. Sounds like he senses genuine enthusiasm and good feelings.

We pick on Bradford for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is that he is a talented QB who played well down the stretch last year. The Eagles were 7-6 in games that he started and finished. Bradford got better as the season went along.

With an improved O-line and a group of WRs that should be better, Bradford could also be better in 2016. No one is putting the guy in the Hall of Fame, but this could be a breakout season for him. The key will be getting off to a better start.

In the first 7 starts of 2015, Bradford only had one game with a QB rating of higher than 90. In 3 of those games, his rating was 66 or lower. You don’t have to be an analytics guru to know that’s bad.

Bradford is healthy in June for the first time in a while. That’s helping him to practice, learn the offense and build some chemistry with his teammates. If Bradford can get his mental and emotional health to match his physical health, 2016 might be a good year for him.

I don’t know if the Sports Science department has a psychological wing, but getting regular praise from teammates, assistant coaches and Doug Pederson seems to be helping quite a bit so far.


Bradford did develop good chemistry with Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews last year. I hope he can build on that.

This surprises me, but you can see some good throws under pressure in the video above.


Another good sign.

Some of these summer get-togethers are overrated, but this is a good sign after the holdout and all that drama. Bradford has to focus on producing the best results in 2016. If he does that, the future will take care of itself.


Chase Talks

Posted: June 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 143 Comments »

Backup QB is normally not a spot of great interest on a team. No one was all that fired up about hearing from or talking about Mark Sanchez last year. Chase Daniel is a bit different.

Daniel is getting paid terrific money for a backup. The Eagles were very generous with him. Too generous, some would argue. The Eagles feel Daniel is worth the money for a couple of reasons. He played for Doug Pederson in KC so he knows the offense and can help those around him to learn the system. Knowing a play is one thing, but understanding the nuances is very different. Daniel can help with that.

The Eagles also feel Daniel is a good backup QB. Sanchez was terrible in his 2 starts last year and the team was 0-3 in the games where he threw a pass. The bar isn’t exactly set sky high for Daniel.

Daniel offers unique perspective because he watched the Chiefs learn the offense in 2013 and how he’s seeing the Eagles learn it this spring. You’ll never guess which group he’s more impressed by. Tim McManus has the details.

Daniel is a big Doug Pederson guy and he’s going to say pro-Pederson things, and that’s just the way it is. What was interesting about this particular exchange was that he didn’t realize that he was handing Pederson a pretty monster compliment. Asked why he thought this group was so far ahead of the ’13 Chiefs, he struggled to come up with an answer.

“I don’t know. I think we have some really smart guys in this locker room — not that we didn’t in Kansas City — but I think guys are just picking it up faster. I don’t know what to attribute that to. Maybe they’re studying more, maybe it just makes sense to them,” he said. “It’s hard to tell, but I feel light years ahead of where we were maybe the first year when we installed it.”

Maybe it’s a feather in the cap of the head coach?

“There you go,” Daniel responded. “Doug heard three years of installs from Andy. Andy installed there. I’m sitting next to Doug in Kansas City and he’s taking copious amounts of notes. He knew what he was in for. He’s going to be a head coach, he’s going to run this offense, he’s going to have his own twists on some stuff. And you could really tell. Like for me, it’s a little different because I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, he hit that point. He hit that point.’ Maybe stuff that he wouldn’t think of but we both heard [from Reid]. I’ve been truly impressed with how well he’s installed the offense, so maybe that could be attributed to it, yeah.”

Maybe Daniel is just praising his new head coach. Or maybe he does mean it and he’s impressed by the Eagles. In the end, it really doesn’t make a huge difference which team learned the offense faster. The Chiefs played well in the regular season and that’s the standard the Eagles have to live up to. has a video showing Daniel talking with reporters in the locker room.

One of the biggest keys for me in that piece is that Daniel paints a very different picture of the Eagles QBs than what many would like to believe. Sam Bradford and Daniel went to play golf together last week. Daniel has also been a friend and mentor to Carson Wentz. It isn’t compelling. It isn’t salacious. But it sure sounds like Eagles QBs actually get along well.

Daniel wants to start. Wentz wants to start or at least be the backup for now. Bradford wants them both stay on the bench. That competition doesn’t have to be cutthroat. Guys can push each other in the right way. You need the right people. Wentz seems humble for a #2 pick. Daniel has been a grinder his whole NFL career. Bradford is the X-factor. No one would have said a bad word about him as a person until his “Get me to Denver” stunt. Luckily Bradford backed off that and came back to the team quickly enough that no one is going to permanently hate him. 


Speaking of Wentz and being grounded…compare him to Matt Barkley, who was a 4th round pick. Barkley could not understand why he was buried on the bench. Everyone else did, but not Barkley. Give the guy credit for working his butt off, but he simply didn’t deserve to play over the guys above him.

Wentz is saying (and not saying) all the right things so far.


Dave Spadaro did an interview with LB Myke Tavarres.

That was a really good interview. Tavarres is engaging and comes across like a pretty bright guy. When talented, athletic players go to small schools, academics can often be an issue. I wondered if that was the case with Tavarres, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s an issue based on the way the young man speaks and what he has to say. He told some good stories and has a good perspective on things.

The Eagles need him to play well. They are thin at LB and paid him big bucks to sign with the team after the draft. This just isn’t a camp body. Tavarres is someone they want to make the team.

Lots of raw ability.

***** also had a good interview with Nelson Agholor.

Multiple members of the media gave him a chance to talk about injuries from last year as a reason his rookie season didn’t go well. Agholor wasn’t interested in excuses. He knows the pressure is on and that he has to produce. He does not want to follow Marcus Smith to the Land of First Round Disappointments. That is a sad, sad place that everyone should avoid.

Agholor is saying all the right things. He’s also played well this spring. That’s critical. Words are nice, but must be backed up by action.

It is interesting that all of the receivers seem to go out of their way to praise Greg Lewis, the new receivers coach. Bob Bicknell must not have been Mr. Popular.


A few people asked why I didn’t talk about Andrew Gardner in the piece I wrote on the OG situation.

If it were up to me, Gardner would be penciled in at LG. He earned the RG job last summer. I thought he played well until he got hurt. I’m a fan of his.

For some reason, the Eagles coaches don’t seem to be. Maybe he’s not completely healthy. Maybe they don’t like his build at OG. I like Gardner and hate that he seems to be getting brushed aside.


Quality Competition

Posted: June 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 28 Comments »

A year ago, inside the NovaCare Complex.

“Who wants to be the left guard?”

“I do”, said Allen Barbre.

“Done. You earned it with that half a game you played last year on opening day.”

“Now, who wants to be the right guard?”

“Andrew, I can see you raising your hand, but maybe we should give Matty Tobin a shot. What do you say Matty?”

“That would be kinda cool, I guess.”

“Hmm. Andrew, make me an argument why you should get the job.”

“Well, I’m bigger, stronger, and more experienced. Oh and I seem to actually want the job.”

“Okay, it’s settled. Matty and Mr. Gardner will compete for the job. Matty, you’re at the top of the depth chart for now.”

You might wonder how I got transcripts from actual team meetings. I’ve been watching The Americans on FX for several years now and I’ve gotten quite good at planting bugs inside NovaCare. You wouldn’t believe what Fran Duffy recently said about Greg Cosell’s shoes. Those comments really crossed the line.

It is also possible I made all that up. Either way, it feels like that is how the OG situation was handled a year ago. Barbre was flat out given the LG spot. RG was a competition between Tobin, Gardner, John Moffitt, UDFA Malcolm Bunche and whoever else got a shot here or there. The team really wanted Tobin to step up and win the job. He laid a major egg, while Gardner played well and earned the starting role.

This year the Eagles weren’t about to handle things the same way. The team went out and gave a huge deal to Brandon Brooks to man the RG spot. Barbre got the LG job coming off a season-ending injury and with 8 career starts. The coaches did know him from practice, but that’s just not a guy you give a starting job to. He could earn it, but you don’t give it to him.

Brooks has started 44 of the past 48 games. He is in his prime and has a rare combination of size and athleticism. That’s a guy you can hand a job to. He’s earned it on the field.

That left LG wide open. I wrote about the competition there, as well as at CB and WR, for this week.

This should be a much better competition. The Eagles have several guys fighting for the job and they have all earned the right to compete. You have the incumbent Barbre. He started all 16 games last year so he’s worth giving another shot. You have the rookie Isaac Seumalo. He played well enough in college to be a 3rd round pick and get into the competition that way. You have Malcolm Bunche, the biggest, strongest and most physical of the guys. Finally, you have Stefen Wisniewski, the most experienced one in the group. That is worlds better than a year ago.

We won’t have an idea how things are going until the guys get to Training Camp. You have to see them battling DL where they can really hit and go at each other. You aren’t going to win an OL job in non-contact practices.

The OL did not play well enough last year. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson improved the talent level. Now it is up to coach Jeff Stoutland and his players to perform better.


Matt Tobin and UDFA Darrell Greene will be battling at RG. They’ll be fighting each other to win the backup role. Their job is also to push Brandon Brooks. He’s got the big contract, but you want the players behind him trying to steal his job.

Tobin has experience and versatility on his side. Greene is bigger and more physical. He also has a clean slate. I’m not sure how the coaches feel about Tobin at this point.

May the best man win.


OTA Updates

Posted: June 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 80 Comments »

The Eagles began their final week of OTAs on Tuesday. Nothing too crazy happened, but it is always interesting to check out the practice notes.

Let’s start with Jeff McLane today.

— Here’s your obligatory quarterback update: Bradford had an up-and-down day, but getting a consistent number of repetitions this year vs. last, when he was still coming back from knee surgery, is what matters most. Other media outlets might overhype the importance of two-touch spring football, but perspective is needed. For instance, Bradford threw a pass to Josh Huff that was tipped by corner Ron Brooks into the hands of safety Rodney McLeod. It was an interception, but was it solely the quarterback’s fault? It was a timing pass – maybe Huff’s slant route wasn’t crisp enough. Later, Bradford threw a pass into the back of the end zone that Malcolm Jenkins cut off and knocked to the ground. There wasn’t a receiver in the vicinity. Did Bradford make the wrong read, or did his receiver run the wrong route? Asked later how he thought he performed, Bradford said that he thought it was a productive outing after watching film.

Some great points here by Jeff. Remember when Chip Kelly would be asked about players on other teams and he would respond that he couldn’t really judge them because he didn’t know what play had been called or what the coaches had told them to do? Same point applies here. We don’t always know who is to blame when something goes wrong.

Nelson Agholor was active. The Eagles (desperately?) need him to elevate his play in his sophomore season. They would love for Agholor to develop into a home run hitter, but I’m not sure that he’s a receiver who can consistently take the lid off a secondary. But he has looked smoother running a variety of other routes. He caught an early seam pass from Carson Wentz, a post in the middle of a zone from Sam Bradford and, in perhaps his best moment, caught a comeback throw after he had turned cornerback Eric Rowe around. If Agholor can’t be a consistent deep threat, the Eagles might need to turn to free-agent addition Chris Givens during the season.

It is encouraging to hear that a young player had a good day. You can see if he gets open and if he catches the ball…real basic stuff. One good day doesn’t mean a whole lot, but if a good day can turn into a good week and then a good month, that’s how young players turn the corner.

Next up is Josh Paunil and Tim McManus. From Josh…

10:49 — While standing on the sidelines, I tell Jimmy Kempski that I’ve never been to WaWa (I grew up in Maryland), and he immediately calls me out on Twitter.

10:50 — Twitter death threats commence. 

11:01 — Chase Daniel shouts, “Gotta get that arm loose, 7!” when Sam Bradford doesn’t lead Huff, forcing the receiver to slow down on a deep ball down the left sideline. Daniel hits Agholor in-stride for a 40-yard strike down the right side moments later, followed by another pretty ball to Hunter Sharp.

11:03 — Doug Pederson dials up some trick plays! Daniel throws a bubble screen to Huff, who rolls back and completes a 20-yard pass to Wendell Smallwood. Later, Agholor takes a bubble screen on the left side and tosses one to Carson Wentz, but the play didn’t connect.

I don’t live in Philly and even I’ve been to WaWa. Crazy.

I get the feeling Chase Daniel is one of those guys who just stirs the pot, but mostly in a good way. As long as guys like that don’t have an agenda, they are a good thing. My guess is that Chase is liked by his teammates and isn’t seen as a jerk.

12:00 — Fight! Or a little scuffle anyway. Allen Barbre and Mike Martin engage in some extra-curriculars during team drills before walking away without further incident. Safe to say, Kelly would have cut them both on the spot.

12:12 — Wentz is running a little hurry-up, and threads one to McFarland. He comes back to the same play a beat later and has similar success. Cory Undlin is not pleased. “C.J!” he yells to rookie corner C.J. Smith, “How many times have you seen them run that?”

Duce Staley has some words for his rook as well, letting Smallwood have it when he doesn’t take the right route out of the backfield, leading to a Wentz incompletion.

12:17 — The day ends on a positive note, though, as Wentz feathers a pass into the corner of the end zone that Chris Pantale snags one-handed for the TD. Pederson decides to call it there.

The defensive coaches aren’t scared to really get on players. Duce is a tough guy as well. I can’t share all the stories I’ve heard, but I’m beginning to see how Jeff Lurie thought of Duce as a legit head coaching candidate. He seems to be able to motivate his guys, as well as being tough on them when it is called for.

Wentz seems to make a few throws every practice that impress people. That’s a good sign to me. It’s way too early to come to conclusions, but you want to hear that the high pick is showing some signs of what made him a high pick in the first place.

Finally, we have Jimmy Bama.

• One area where Chip Kelly was tremendous in his tenure with the Eagles was with special teams. Under Kelly, the Eagles probably got more special teams reps than any team in the NFL, and my bet is that it was by a wide margin. Over the last three years, it could be argued that the Eagles had the best special teams units in the NFL. The Eagles under Doug Pederson aren’t getting anywhere near as many special teams reps so far. We’ll see if and how that will affect the 2016 Eagles.

• The kickers made all their kicks today. Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis were both 3-for-3 from distances of about 27, 32, and 38. Parkey had a near-miss on one as hejust kept one inside the right upright on the 33-yarder.

The Carson Daily

Wentz was up and down today, in my opinion. He had some really nice throws, some throws he’ll learn from.

In the “learn from” column, the play design was a fake to the right, then a screen back to the left side. Bryan Braman read it nicely and was able to bat the pass out of the air before it reached the intended target. Those plays can become disasters. It appeared as though Wentz just trusted that it would be open before he turned to throw the screen, and was not expecting Braman to be there.

In the “atta boy” column, he had a gorgeous deep ball down the sideline to Xavier Rush in 7-on-7’s. During the more important 11-on-11 phase of practice, he threw a perfectly placed wheel jawn to running back Cedric O’Neal in the back of the end zone. O’Neal tried to one hand it (perhaps unnecessarily) and could not make the play. But the throw was money. On the next play, Wentz hit TE Chris Pantale on the other side of the field for a TD on what looked to be another well-placed ball, although I didn’t have as great a view on that one.

That is a great point about STs. Those guys got a lot of reps under Kelly and they made them pay off. It will be interesting to see how less practice reps affects the group.

As for Wentz, you cannot expect to see a finished product. He is going to be up and down. You want more ups than downs, and for some of the ups to be really impressive.

***** has Sam Bradford’s PC.

Nothing outrageous here, but Sam has a few interesting comments.

It certainly sounds like he, Chase and Carson Wentz are all getting along fine.

I thought the most interesting comment was when he talked about wanting to incorporate some ideas from last year that he thought worked well. If there is something that he likes and the team ran well last year, why not add it to the playbook?