Mountain or a Mole Hill?

Posted: August 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 171 Comments »

Sam Bradford will be a spectator when the Eagles play their preseason opener on Sunday. Chip Kelly announced on Friday that Bradford will sit out the Colts game. Kelly said Bradford was disappointed but understood the coach’s decision.

Is this a big deal or not?

https://twitter.com/JimmyKempski/status/632250688542785538

Differing opinions from a couple of very good Eagles writers.

I lean more toward Jeff McLane’s thinking. Kelly has never come out and said Bradford would absolutely play this week. Kelly has talked all along about the Eagles being smart with Bradford. And so far the moves have worked well. They eased him along in the spring. Bradford didn’t do 11-on-11’s until the summer. He looks comfortable on the field and isn’t wearing a brace. Bradford is playing well and earning rave reviews from everyone who watches him.

Would playing on Sunday substantially help Bradford in any way? No. The starters are on the field for one, maybe two series. That’s it. They generally shake off the rust and then get off the field. The first preseason game is more about the third and fourth stringers than anyone.

There is a huge X-factor…the offensive line. Allen Barbre will be at LG and Andrew Gardner (we think) at RG. The configuration of Peters-Barbre-Kelce-Gardner-Johnson has never started a game together, whether regular or preseason. Do you want the QB coming off a torn ACL out there behind this group as they take their first snaps together?

As a point of reference, last year the starting OL struggled in the opener. Jason Peters had a holding penalty. Evan Mathis had two of them. Jason Kelce got driven back into Nick Foles. Allen Barbre struggled in pass protection. Most of that group knew each other very well. They just had an off night.

The Ravens and Eagles will practice together this week. Bradford will have a chance to go against another defense in a controlled setting. The OL will have a few snaps under their belt. This can serve the same purpose as playing in the preseason opener, but with less risk.

I do agree with McLane that if Kelly pulls Bradford out of next week’s game, that changes things. Then you have to question the coach’s confidence in his QB. For now, he’s playing it safe. There is very little to gain and plenty to lose so why push your luck?

* * * * *

Is Sam Bradford 100 percent? This is an argument that gets into semantics. Kelly and Bradford can say he’s 100 percent healthy without lying. His knee is functional. The torn ligament has been repaired.

That is different than being 100 percent in-shape and ready to go. Clearly Bradford isn’t either of those. He needs to run around on the field at full speed and against live tacklers to show that he’s truly all the way back. You aren’t going to see that in his first game. If we’re lucky, that will happen in the third preseason game, when Bradford and the starters will play significant snaps.

* * * * *

Mark Sanchez will start, but won’t play all that much. Most of the opener will be Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow battling for the number three QB job.

Last year Barkley was 7 for 16 for 73 yards in the opener. He’ll see plenty of time with the backup offense in the game so he needs to post better numbers than that.

Barkley is the better passer. Tebow is the better player. And much more experienced. It will be interesting to see which guy can take advantage of the opportunity.

I don’t really care which guy wins the battle. I just hope it comes down to one of them playing better than the other and not the coaches being forced to choose the guy who was less awful. Preseason football isn’t always a pretty sight.

* * * * *

Big news on Zach Ertz today. He is out for the preseason with a “core muscle injury”. Kelly said he would be back for the season opener. Some people were skeptical of that timetable. It looks like the Eagles got lucky. This isn’t a sports hernia. It is similar, but a lesser injury.

It would have been good to see Ertz in the preseason. I wanted to get a better feel for his blocking and how much it has improved.

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Gardner in the Lead?

Posted: August 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 395 Comments »

Andrew Gardner worked with the first team at RG on Thursday. That’s the fourth time he’s done that in
Training Camp, making him the leader in that category. Does that mean he is now the leader in the competition to be the starting RG?

That could very well be the case.

Gardner started eight games in 2014. Two of them came at RT, the rest were at RG. He was the Eagles starting RG for the final six games of the season.

My guess is that the Eagles would have loved for Matt Tobin to win the job because of his age (just turned 25 in June). Gardner is 29. But Gardner is the better player right now. He has more experience and is more athletic. Gardner can be a good run blocker. He is strong enough to move his man off the ball. He also has the movement skills Chip Kelly likes in his OL.

The big issue with Gardner is pass protection. Quick interior rushers can get the best of him. I would hope the coaches have him face Vinny Curry as much as possible to help get ready for the rest of the league. If you can block Curry on the inside, you can block just about anybody.

Gardner isn’t going to become Evan Mathis Pt. 2, but he can be an effective starter. He can be a good player in a run-heavy offense. You don’t want him pass blocking 45 times a game, although that is true of most OGs.

Let’s get onto the rest of practice talk.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama focused on Eric Rowe.

During one-on-ones today, Eric Rowe looked really good on three consecutive reps:

  1. Rep 1: Pass breakup on what was sort of a seam route.
  2. Rep 2: He jammed a receiver at the line of scrimmage, who took at least two or three seconds to get into his route. The quarterback completed a short pass, but in reality, he would have immediately come off that receiver and looked to his next progression in a real game setting.
  3. Rep 3: Deep ball to Riley Cooper that Rowe picked.

Very encouraging series for him.

Rowe is now working at CB and NB. I think having him win the Nickel job is a long shot because he is a rookie that hasn’t played that spot very much in his football career. The coaches are giving him a chance because he is so smart, instinctive and talented. If anyone can learn the role quickly, it is Rowe.

Tim McManus had a great quote from Rowe.

“Mentally I think I had a rough day yesterday, just with my man technique stuff,” said Rowe, who began his transition to nickel Wednesday. “Last night I went home, watched film, and knew what I had to do the next day. Today when I stepped out, I knew I wasn’t going to make those same mistakes. Going against [Cooper], I just made sure I stayed on top of the route instead of me just kinda trailing behind, and he just threw the fade.”

Chip Kelly is always talking about players who love football and who have a growth mindset. You can see the benefit of having players like that when you read Rowe’s words. There are plenty of rookies and veterans who settle for “good enough”. Rowe has been given an opportunity to win a key job and he’s going to do everything he possibly can to win that job.

* * * * *

McManus also had some thoughts on the battle for the number three QB job.

Seven-on-sevens, and the battle for the No. 3 QB spot is heating up! Matt Barkley with a nice ball down the left sideline to Eric Tomlinson. Tim Tebow answers with a bullet down the seam to Mike Johnson. This one is tough to call. If it iwas being judged solely off accuracy, Barkley would be the winner. But Tebow has improved as a thrower and you wonder if Kelly is intrigued by the run/pass element he could bring to the table.

Coming out of camp, that is a fair assessment. There is an argument for each player.

Preseason games will be huge. And don’t focus too much on Tebow’s running. The coaches want the third QB to be able to be a functional passer. Tebow isn’t going to be as good a passer, but he needs to be close in order to win the job. I’m looking forward to seeing his throwing mechanics.

* * * * *

Good stuff from Jeff McLane.

Defensive-offensive line one-on-ones were abbreviated, but there were a few notable matchups. David Molk still looks like the leading candidate to be the backup center. He squared off against undrafted rookie DT Travis Raciti and kept going at him with his hands. Raciti appeared upset with the extra action and took a late swing at Molk. Tobin struggled against DE Brandon Bair and was tossed aside at guard. DE Taylor Hart stood out when he muscled undrafted rookie Malcolm Bunche to the ground. OL Josh Andrews battled to a stalemate vs. DE Cedric Thornton, but pulled up lame. He later checked into the trainer’s tent and left practice.

Vinny Curry played a little outside linebacker in the spring. The Eagles have no intention of having him in the OLB rotation, but they want to use his pass-rush skills and had him rushing from a two-point stance off the edge Thursday. He jumped offsides on one play. … Thurmond has shown a knack for getting into the backfield on run plays. He slashed through and “stopped” RB Raheem Mostert on one carry. It’ll be interesting to watch Thurmond play safety for the first time Sunday.

Matt Tobin hasn’t been getting glowing reviews from anyone this summer. Could be be cut? Preseason games will be huge for him. Tobin stood out the last couple of years in preseason games.

Get Curry on the field as much as possible. I don’t care if he is a DL or LB or some new position is created for him. Heck, put him at SS and have him blitz. Curry is the kind of disruptive player you want on the field and attacking the QB.

* * * * *

Brandon Lee Gowton wrote about Sam Bradford.

Not Sam Bradford’s best day. He had a series where he went 0-4. One of the passes was almost picked off by Byron Maxwell, who still looks great. Maxwell also had great coverage on a deep ball intended for Agholor.

One positive sign from Bradford came when he kept the ball on the read option. He didn’t get super far but he didn’t look hurt while running. Seemed to be fine.

One of Bradford’s better series was highlighted when he hit Brent Celek with a strike where only the tight end could get it.

It was good to note that he took off running. Jimmy Bama has been writing recently about how Bradford never runs. No one needs him to be Mike Vick, but he must be able to move around and run when that is the best option. That said, I’d rather him focus on throwing the ball in camp. Save the runs for the regular season.

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Receivers on the Rise

Posted: August 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 410 Comments »

I can’t recall the Eagles having a young trio of receivers like Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor. You have a 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick and 1st round pick. All three have a good combination of size and speed. All three are tough, hard-nosed and willing to block.

Matthews has established himself as a good NFL player. Huff showed flashes of real talent last year, but remains unproven. Agholor is a rookie and we have yet to see him in action. The practice reports for Huff and Agholor are encouraging.

Here is Jimmy Bama with his take on Huff from today.

Josh Huff had perhaps his best day of camp so far. In 1-on-1’s, he beat Byron Maxwell on an in-route in which he was able to gain significant separation. On his next rep, he smoked Marc Anthony (not of J-Lo fame) on a deep ball. In 2-on-3’s, he had a sliding sideline catch in which he was able to stay in bounds and did the same in the back of the end zone during red zone drills. But my favorite play of the day was subtle. On the seam route mentioned above in the Bradford section of these notes, Huff waited until the last second to put his hands up and snatch the pass, so as not to tip off Byron Maxwell that the ball was in the air. Huff received an atta boy from Maxwell on the play.

Huff and Maxwell have really battled the last few practices, and it has been fun to watch. “You’ve seen it,” said Maxwell. “He has the talent. Just go and do it. Be who they think you are. Be who you think you are. That’s really what I’m trying to (tell him). He has all the tools, he can do it. ‘You a dog, you a beast, be that.'”

Maxwell is the team’s best CB. Huff is not the best receiver, but he’s going against the top corner on a daily basis. That challenge seems to be bringing out the best in him.

Here is Tim McManus with more on that.

Josh Huff and Byron Maxwell have been going at it all summer. On this play, Huff finds some room down the seam, hauls in a well-placed Sam Bradford dart and takes off. Maxwell compliments the receiver as he makes his way back to the sideline for giving him “late hands” meaning he did not give Maxwell any tells that the ball was coming his way until it was too late. They communicate like that after every play.

“I tell him what I did to get to that point and he’ll tell me what I can do better, and vice-versa,” said Huff. “If he beats me on a route or beats me in press, I always ask where I could do better and he always gives me positive feedback.”

“Iron sharpens iron,” said Maxwell. “In order for him to get ready and in order for me to get ready for Sunday, we’ve gotta help each other out here, right now.”

While the relationship is obviously good, it gets competitive between them. The next time they lock horns, Maxwell has Huff covered and an out pass from Bradford sails high. Afterwards, Huff screams a four-letter expletive and slams his helmet down on the sideline.

“He got the better of me on that one. He got a little savvy vet-ness to him, I guess you could say,” said Huff. “He got away with a hold in my opinion.”

I really like the fact these two players are pushing each. They are competitive, but in the right way. Sometimes players will woof at each other and compete, but it feels like more of an ego thing than a productive, competitive relationship. Maxwell seems to be bringing out the best in Huff.

* * * * *

Agholor had a solid day, per Bama.

Nelson Agholor had his worst moment of camp today. He got himself wide open on a deep route, Timmy Tebow placed the ball on a platter for him, aaaaand… drop. Ugh. Otherwise, Agholor was terrific. He does a great job snatching the ball away from his body, which he did all day, and he had a tremendous leaping grab in the front corner of the end zone in which he was able to keep both feet in bounds.

Jordan Matthews had a glowing review of Agholor after practice. “Nelson, I think he’s the most explosive of (the Eagles receivers). You think about what he’s been able to do. He’s come out with the ones and looked so natural, and then when he has a chance to make big plays, he makes them. I can’t say enough good things about him. The guy works hard too.

“Nelson is always going to make the next play. It’s a good thing that he’s hard on himself, because he knows how hard he works at his craft. Every day he comes out here he wants to put a good product on the field. You see a lot of guys who come out here and just punch the clock. They might drop balls, and go ‘OK, I’ll be here tomorrow,’ but these lockers aren’t promised. It’s beautiful when you see a guy who’s a first round pick still have that chip on his shoulder to understand that hey, nothing is promised, none of this stuff is guaranteed. He comes here and works his butt off every single day like an undrafted guy, and I really appreciate that.”

The presence of Matthews and Huff (and to a lesser extent, Riley Cooper) takes the pressure off Agholor. He can get on the field and play if he earns time, but there isn’t pressure on him to start and be productive right away.

If Matthews is able to build on his rookie season and Huff and Agholor play to their potential, this receiving corps could be outstanding, now and into the future.

* * * * *

Jeff McLane had good notes on OL/DL.

2. I focused a lot of my attention on 1-on-1 drills between the two lines. Earlier this week, I asked defensive coordinator Bill Davis about the drills and what the coaches wanted to see out of the players. “It’s really about the first couple steps, angles, their sets, our angles, our hands, their hands, those type of things are what you are looking at,” Davis said, also referring to the o-line. Matt Tobin has been one of four linemen that have rotated into right guard with the first team, but he’s also played a lot of tackle with the second team. He did better at guard during 1 on 1s and battled to a stalemate when pitted against DT Bennie Logan. Tobin was fooled by a Conor Barwin spin move at tackle, but blocked Marcus Smith to the ground during a later edge rush. Smith had a highlight rush on Tuesday, but bounced back to earth a day later. Dennis Kelly was the victim of Smith’s stutter-step, bull rush. He looked more confident on Wednesday and stood up a DE B.J. McBryde attempt. Julian Vadervelde has been a surprise contender in the competition at RG. But watching the 1 on 1s, you can see why offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has him in the mix. Vandervelde looks steady. He also told me earlier this week that he feels as healthy as ever. He was like a wall when undrafted rookie Travis Raciti tried to maneuver past him.

3. So what about some of the lesser-known linemen? Center David Molk isn’t exactly an unknown after filling in for Jason Kelce last year, but he’s done his work under the radar this summer. The knock against Molk is that it’s a struggle for him to swing to guard. He’s a capable enough backup center, but Vandervelde, for instance, is more versatile. Still, Molk knows the center position. He’s very adept at snapping the ball and holding his ground despite the limited space in the middle. He gives up more than 40 pounds to DT Beau Allen, but used his quickness and hand placement as leverage during one drill and didn’t forfeit his footing.

4. As for the undrafted rookie offensive linemen, Malcolm Bunche (6-6, 320) has impressed the most so far. He got DE Vinny Curry off his feet during one rush and seemed to handle a DE Fletcher Cox bull rush. Nice. It should be interesting to watch Bunche on Sunday against the Colts. OL Brett Boyko struggled. DE Brandon Bair drove him to the ground, rookie DE Brian Mihalik turned the corner on him, and Raciti beat him with a spin move. DE Taylor Hart took reps with the first team defense during team drills on Wednesday. He looked a little sluggish against OL Andrew Gardner during 1 on 1s, though.

I don’t know what to make of Vandervelde. If it is him vs Molk for a spot, I prefer Molk, who I saw start and play effectively last year. But Vandervelde is a better swing G/C so that helps his value. I’m looking forward to seeing both in games.

Bunche is another player that has my attention. Chip was asked about him the other day and mentioned some good things. Bunche has gotten practice mentions the last couple of days. I don’t see him pushing for the roster this year, but he could be good practice squad material. He was a good run blocker in college. Maybe Jeff Stoutland can bring out the best in him.

* * * * *

MISC NOTES

Glad to hear Smith had another good moment today. He needs more of them, and to play more consistently Still, it is good to hear he’s offering some impact.

* Andrew Gardner was the RG today. That was his 3rd day, the most of any RG candidate so far.

* Finally, a bit of humor for you.

Classic.

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Another Day, Another DB Update

Posted: August 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 291 Comments »

Chip Kelly held a press conference prior to Tuesday’s practice. As usual, he had plenty of interesting things to say, but one item stood out. Kelly said that Eric Rowe would be competing for the Nickel spot. Previously he had left Rowe out of the list of players battling for that job.

Rowe is a good fit for when he goes against guys like Jordan Matthews in the slot, but the question is how he’ll do when going against a Wes Welker type. Those guys are smaller, quicker and very elusive. They can be tough to cover for someone that is tall and over 200 pounds.

Rowe played CB and S in college so he is used to lining up all over the field. He has good cover skills and is a gifted athlete. He just might prove to be capable of playing in the slot. Byron Maxwell, who is a bigger corner, did a good job in the slot for Seattle.

* * * * *

The Eagles added a DB to the roster, signing former Raven Marc Anthony. He was a 7th round pick back in 2013.

He is an interesting choice for the Eagles. A couple of years ago I actually listed him in a mock draft for PE.com.

Seventh Round (No. 218 overall) – CB Marc Anthony – Cal – 5-11, 196 pounds

Anthony is a talented player. He has good game tape. He played well at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he ran slow at the Combine and that has killed his value. Corners need to run about 4.50 in the 40-yard dash. Anthony was timed at 4.63. In the past, teams would write him off. There is a new movement in the NFL to focus on corners with size and physicality, even if that means sacrificing some speed. The Seahawks are the best example of this. Anthony is a risk, but I think he’s a smart risk. Let him press and be physical and see if he can overcome the lack of top speed. He is a good athlete overall.

Interestingly, I also had the Eagles taking Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Joe Kruger in that mock.

Anthony helps with depth for Training Camp and preseason games. I would think of him as a long shot to actually provide competition for a roster spot. We’ll see him play on Sunday and get a feel for if he’s a camp body or could turn into something more.

* * * * *

Marcus Smith got some praise. First up is Jimmy Bama.

Marcus Smith had the highlight of the day during one-on-one pass rush drills. He put Dennis Kelly on roller skates, and then on his back. Absolutely destroyed him. “It was a head fake bull (rush),” said Smith. “I came off the ball, and did kind of a stutter step to get him off his feet, and then I bull rushed him and got to the quarterback.”

After standing out for the first time since, um, ever, Smith then went into a celebratory dance routine a la Freddy Mitchell. “I was just happy I finally conquered the move I’ve been wanting to do, so now I can bring other moves off of that,” Smith said. The Eagles are light on OLB depth, and they need Smith to step up his game this season. Today was an encouraging sign.

Tim McManus also had a note on him.

Later during team drills, Smith blows up a run play, bursting into the backfield to corral Kenjon Barner before the back even had a chance to make a move. “Good job, Marcus!” a group of teammates yelled from the sideline. Pretty good day for the second-year linebacker.

Jeff McLane offered his take.

We had a Marcus Smith sighting. The Eagles’ 2014 top pick delivered the pass-rush move of training camp, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but Smith was also very active later during team drills. I don’t want to overstate one practice, but the second-year outside linebacker showed some signs of life. Let’s see if he can translate that to game action once the preseason starts on Sunday. As for the pass-rush move, it came during one-on-ones and against OL Dennis Kelly. “I did kind of a stutter-step to get him off his feet and then I bull-rushed him,” Smith said. And, boy, did he get Kelly off his feet. Smith drove the 6-foot-8, 321-pound Kelly back as if he were on skates and, finally, onto his rear end. Smith then did a dance as his defensive teammates jumped around him (and over the fallen Kelly). “I don’t know what that really was,” Smith said. “I was just happy that I finally conquered the move that I really wanted to do. Now I can bring other moves.” Kelly said that he lost his balance, but that Smith, who added 15 pounds, was stronger in this camp than a year ago. “That’s not going to look good on film for me,” Kelly said. “But it was a good move.”

Smith isn’t exactly turning into Lawrence Taylor, but this is encouraging. Smith needs to build on this. Don’t let one good day be an anomaly. Having success on the field will help his confidence, which will then help him to have more success. Can’t wait to see him play this weekend.

* * * * *

Your Sam Bradford highlights of the day. McManus again.

Sam Bradford is having another fine day. He connects with Nelson Agholor, then zips a back-shoulder throw to Brent Celek for the touchdown. Agholor is getting a lot of first-team reps today. It appears Josh Huff is not a full participant.

Bradford finds Murray for a short-gainer and then tries a back-shoulder throw to Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone. But Jaylen Watkins, playing first-team nickel, has good coverage and the pass is incomplete.

Bradford finishes strong. He finds Sproles in the flat, then connects with Jeff Maehl down the left side for a big gain. That’s followed by the play of the day. Bradford lofts a perfect ball to Matthews in the right corner of the end zone about 30 yards downfield. Watkins is on him and again has tight coverage but Matthews rises up and wrestles the ball in for the score. A fired-up Matthews celebrates with an angry flex and a series of chest bumps as he makes his way up the sideline.

That last plays sound like one heck of a throw/catch by Bradford and Matthews. It is also encouraging that Jaylen Watkins still had good coverage, as well as having broken up a previous pass. Good news all around.

* * * * *

Brandon Lee Gowton covered the RBs.

DeMarco Murray runs ANGRY. The Eagles running back ran up the gut and completely bowled over Walter Thurmond head on. Violent. It was reminiscent of the way Murray once destroyed Damion Square.

Speaking of running backs, it was another day where Ryan Mathews looked pretty good as well. The Eagles’ backfield is stacked.

Murray has been in and out of practice. It is noteworthy because he’s such a key part of the offense, but I’m not worried right now. The Sports Science staff tries to prevent injuries when they can and that means being protective of players.

* * * * *

McLane had a good note on the ILBs.

There was a flip side to the run drills, and a few linebackers stood out on defense. Rookie Jordan Hicks had a couple of “stops” that stood out. He shuffled to the sideline and caught RB Raheem Mostert before he turned upfield, and Hicks got to him again up the middle a play later. The Eagles drafted Hicks in the third round, which virtually assures him a spot on the roster, but he looks like he belongs so far. DeMeco Ryans’ recovery appears to be going swimmingly. He made one of those slashing run stops into the backfield, on a Darren Sproles carry, that have become customary over his career.

The Eagles expect Hicks to be a key player in the future. He won’t play a ton this year (barring injuries), but the team loves his athleticism and instincts.

* * * * *

I have not been to Training Camp so I can’t offer an opinion on this. I hadn’t even considered the notion that Bradford wouldn’t play this weekend. It will be interesting to see if the coaches do sit him or if he’s out there.

And if Bradford is on the field, will he look confident or timid? Guys coming off a torn ACL (or two) have been known to be nervous about the first contact of the year. Definitely something to watch.

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More on the Nickel Situation

Posted: August 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 407 Comments »

There were a lot of reactions to the previous article so let me address some of them.

* A few of you pointed out there was a 4th option…letting Brandon Boykin play this year and show he deserves to be kept around in the future. Yeah, we’d all love that. The problem is that Chip Kelly doesn’t want a CB that is 5-9, 183. Period. We can argue the merits of Chip’s philosophy, but the bottom line is that Boykin wasn’t going to get a long term deal. You either deal him now or lose him to free agency.

I already covered the question of Kelly and not wanting small players in a previous post.

Someone pointed out that Brandon Graham looked like a goner and ended up getting a new deal. There is a big difference in the two. Graham was a backup, but he still played the position of OLB. He went up against starting OTs when rushing the passer. Graham showed the ability to play like a starter.

Boykin played the slot. While the coaches value that position, they aren’t going to pay an undersized guy to play that role. If the Eagles thought Boykin would sign for a reasonable deal, they might feel different. They know he wants big money and just aren’t going to overpay for a player his size or for that role.

* Eric Rowe is going to stay on the outside. The coaches want him to focus on learning one position for now. They feel his best position is CB. It would be great if Rowe could start at CB and Nolan Carroll could cover the slot. Some want Rowe to play FS, freeing Walter Thurmond up to play Nickel. Rowe is staying at CB, and for now he’s the backup to Carroll.

* What about Denzel Rice? He might be in the mix to play the Nickel. I couldn’t remember if the coaches had worked him there or strictly on the outside.

* Some of you want me to be more critical of Kelly. I don’t criticize for the heck of it. My first goal is to understand the thinking behind a move. If there is logic, I can deal with it.

I don’t like the 3-4 defense, but that’s what Chip wants to I set aside my feelings and focus on his ability to build a good 3-4 defense. I’m not as fixated on having big players as Kelly, but that’s what he wants. I focus on him trying to build the roster he wants. That’s how my mind works.

* Were the Eagles foolish for dealing Boykin with a rookie, unproven second year player and journeyman veteran as the key replacement options? This is a matter of opinion, but I don’t think so.

This isn’t a case of the Eagles trying to force a player into the Nickel spot. They thought Shepherd looked natural in there and took a long look at him there in the spring. Had he struggled, Boykin would probably still be an Eagle.

One of the reasons the Eagles targeted Jaylen Watkins in the 2014 draft was his versatility.

They have seen him play the slot in college and think he’s got the skill set to play there in the NFL.

As to Biggers, he has plenty of experience playing the Nickel spot in the NFL. This isn’t new to him at all.

We don’t know if Shepherd would have panned out, or if Watkins or Biggers will pan out, but there is some logic in the thinking. The Eagles weren’t relying on one player to be The Answer. They had multiple options to replace Boykin and hoped one would pan out. We have to wait and see what happens.

* Can these moves fail? Yes, absolutely. Just because there is logic behind them doesn’t guarantee a thing. Chip might be wishing he never let Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin go. Kelly isn’t afraid to take chances, and that is a good thing. You must be bold when trying to build an NFL roster. But bold moves that don’t pay off will get you fired.

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