Risk

Posted: July 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 143 Comments »

Jason Pierre-Paul looked like the most dominant defensive player in the league in 2011. He racked up 16.5 sacks, 8 TFLs, 2 FFs and even batted down 7 passes. The Giants won the Super Bowl that year and many wondered if JPP would be the new LT, striking fear into the hearts of offensive players and coaches around the league.

JPP didn’t handle success well and wasn’t nearly the same player in 2012. He still had 8 TFLs, but only 6.5 sacks. And his run defense was an issue. The Eagles ran at him repeatedly in an Sunday night win where the team piled up 191 rushing yards. TE Brent Celek was able to single-block JPP more than a few times.

Injuries hit in 2013 and JPP really fell off. He rebounded in 2014 and showed glimpses of the player he had been in the past. JPP finished with 12.5 sacks.

Now his career is very much up in the air. The Giants want him back, but no one knows how he will perform.

JJ Watt came into the NFL in 2011 and got off to a good start. He was lights out in 2012. He played well in 2013, but really took things up a notch in 2014. Watt is the best player in the NFL right now.

JPP and Watt both have a rare combination of size and athleticism. Both can take over games. There is one big difference. Watt stays focused and does everything he can to be great.

JPP got out of shape for a while. He lost his work ethic. This comes as no surprise to the NFL teams who scouted him prior to the 2010 draft. JPP had the measurables that every team coveted, but he wasn’t on all 32 draft boards because some teams thought he wasn’t dedicated to the game. Other teams thought he partied too much.

On July 4th JPP made a careless decision to play with some very powerful fireworks. Why on earth would you ever do that when you are in the prime of your NFL career? JPP had millions of dollars at stake. His coach might be fired if JPP doesn’t play well. There is a lot on the line for JPP, his teammates and his coaches in 2015. That’s all more complicated than ever due to the fireworks mishap that cost him one finger and left the rest of his hand damaged.

Chip Kelly is trying to build the Eagles with the right kind of players. He has yet to take any real chances in terms of character when it comes to draft picks and giving out huge contracts. JPP is a poster child for his thinking. As good as JPP can be, is he worth the risk? You don’t know which guy you are getting from year to year. What kind of a team are you building when the best player can’t be counted on to consistently work hard and stay focused?

DeSean Jackson posted great numbers for the Skins in 2014, but the team was still highly dysfunctional and went 4-12. Jackson has incredible talent and blows you away when he’s at his best. Unfortunately Jackson wants to be a celebrity and/or rapper as much as he wants to be a football star. His new reality show is doing nothing to change the image of Jackson as a talented, but flawed individual. Thankfully Eliot Shorr-Parks has taken the time to watch the show and share some “highlights”.

The first episode of the show starts off with a bang, as Jackson is shown producing a rap album, yelling at the police, smoking a cigar and drinking in a club.

“You know what the downfall of every great athlete is?,” Gayle Jackson, DeSean’s mother, asks during a dinner. “Alcohol, money and women.”

Right on cue, the show cuts to shots of Jackson smoking and drinking surrounded by women in a bar. In the prior scene, Jackson is seen shouting at police as they drive by outside.

“Haters!,” Jackson yells. “Bye, bye!”

Jackson is also quoted as saying the Eagles tried to “blow (him) up” and ruin his reputation by releasing him.

Then comes the second episode.

Jackson is asked by his sister, A’Dreea, about his financial situation and a recent charge on a credit card.

“What could you have spent $5,000 on in one night in the club?,” A’Dreea Jackson asks, before finding another charge for $25,000.

“Alcohol,” Jackson responds.

Jackson, in a private moment with cameras, then admits that he has perhaps lost his way since his father, Bill, passed away in 2009.

“When I have football, I’m focused. Then once the off time comes, it’s like, ‘Ok, what’s next?'” Jackson says. “When my dad was here, it was always, ‘Ok, we’re working out, we’re training, we’re training. But when my dad passed away, I did a lot of crazy things. I partied, I was spending money I shouldn’t have spent…because I don’t have that dominant voice to tell me I’m trippin.”

His brother, Byron, also speaks to the bad influences around DeSean.

“My dad was very protective of who DeSean came out with and some of his friends,” Byron says. “Since my dad passed, some of the friends have come back around, and they weren’t good news for DeSean.”

A constant theme of the show is Jackson’s mother and sister having to control DeSean. In one scene, his sister (who admits she has to follow DeSean around to make sure he is following the rules) sits him down to discuss him and his friends jumping off of a roof into the pool.

“Does nobody have common sense in the group?” A’Dreea says. “You take enough risks in your every day-to-day life.

“There are definitely some people around I question,” A’Dreea says of DeSean’s friends. “Their life is just like a big party.”

Compare that to what we’ve heard about Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. There is no question that Jackson is more talented. It isn’t close. But can you ever build a championship team with a guy like him?

People love to point out the Cowboys teams of the early 90’s. Listen to Michael Irvin talk and you understand that they worked hard and played hard. They busted their butts in practice. Those players were so ultra-competitive that they weren’t going to allow the partying to affect the on-field product. They wanted to be the kings of the football world. There was no desire to be a rap star.

Kelly wants players who want to be great players. He wants stars that he can count on. Guys that will motivate themselves and will help others. Kelly doesn’t want to have to coach effort. That should be a given.

Tim McManus has a great story on some Eagles getting together out west and working together during this down time. This is exactly what Kelly wants.

A good number of the players in attendance have Southern California ties, like Ryan Mathews and Seyi Ajirotutu. Matt Barkley was there for a portion of the week as well, Durkin said. Others, like Jordan Matthews,  wandered a little further from their roots to be there.

They are all staying in one house, says Durkin, and travel around together in a white van that he has dubbed the “Eaglemobile.”

“I said all you need now is a green pair of wings on that van and you’ll be set,” he said. “It’s cool, the bonding that is happening. You’ve got the guys driving around in a white van, they’re coming out and laughing and having fun. When it’s go time they’re working their butts off. We’ve got rookies out here, we’ve got guys that are trying to make the club, we’ve got proven veterans that are showing the young guys how to work.”

I especially love the nugget about the van.

You can take a risk on talented players with character flaws. More than a few of those guys have won Super Bowls. But you can also end up having a team fall apart and getting yourself fired. Kelly prefers players he can trust to do the right thing, whether he is watching or not. We’ll see if this formula pays off for him.

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A Bit More on OLs and RBs

Posted: July 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 52 Comments »

Tom Landry’s storied career ended after the 1988 season. Jimmy Johnson inherited a team that lacked talent and had gotten into a losing rut.

But Jimmy also inherited LT Mark Tuinei and LG Nate Newton. They had started both 1987 and 1988 together. Dallas had a star RB in Herschel Walker in those years. While he was productive (1,514 yards in 1988), those were some empty yards. The team won 3 games and was 21st in the league in scoring. You know how even the worst team in the NBA is going to have a leading scorer…that’s what Walker had become by then. He could fill up the stat sheet and even have some great moments, but he wasn’t a guy you built an offense around.

Fast forward to 1992 and 1993. Emmitt Smith was in the prime of his career and running like a mad-man to the left side. Smith was the epitome of the RB you build an offense around. The Cowboys key play was called Load Left. Smith let Tuinei and Newton pave the way for him on run after run. While Tuinei and Newton were the left side on some crappy teams, they were also the left side on a team that won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years.

Newton used to joke that he didn’t become a Pro Bowl player untill Emmitt Smith arrived. Newton said he was the same guy the whole time, but with Smith running that somehow made him into a star blocker. That’s over-simplifying things a bit, but you get the point. The right RB can make his blockers look like studs.

Another sign that points to the value of someone like Smith…he held out in 1993 and Dallas went 0-2 without him, scoring a total of 26 points. They had the OL, Aikman, Irvin and Novacek. But without Smith…the offense was completely different. Unfortunately he returned and the team went 12-2.

Thinking about Herschel also made me remember 1994. He and Vaugh Hebron were the 1-2 punch at RB to begin the year. Walker didn’t even have 100 yards total after 3 games. The Eagles then had a bye week. Out of that they went to SF, where a rookie named Charlie Garner made his debut. He was 16-111 with 2 TDs in that game and gave the running game a spark that made it look totally different than it had in years. A RB with speed and moves? Freaky Friday.

* * * * *

I mentioned Bill Callahan in yesterday’s post. I didn’t realize that he had moved on to WAS. That’s bad for Dallas and good for the Skins. Callahan is one of the better OL coaches in the league. He knows the running game.

Dallas replaced him with Frank Pollack. He might turn out to be a terrific OL coach, but he doesn’t have the experience and track record of Callahan. It will be interesting to see if this is a move that will hurt Dallas more than they know.

Pollack was the Assistant OL coach for the Texans for several years. They had a terrific run game in that time so he might turn out to be a good hire for Dallas.

* * * * *

Mark Saltveit, the Chip Kelly guru, has a good piece on Kelly.

This is Mark and Ross Tucker discussing/writing about Kelly and some of his ideas. Good stuff.

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The Player Matters

Posted: July 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 116 Comments »

DeMarco Murray had a great season in 2014. Ask an Eagles fan and they will tell you that Murray produced great numbers because he was finally healthy all year long and finally had good blocking. Ask a Dallas fan and they will tell you most of the credit goes to the O-line. Any back would have posted big numbers.

So which is it?

NFL players chose Murray as the 4th best player in the entire league. I think that tells you they think the RB matters.

This argument goes back years. RB is the most replaceable position in football. There are tons of guys who are between 5-9 and 6-2 and who weigh 190 to 230 pounds. RB is the most instinctive position in football. “Run away from the guys in the other colored jersey.”

UCLA put LB Myles Jack at RB and he looked like a star. Washington put Shaq Thompson at RB some last year and he looked like a natural back there. Curtis Enis was a LB at Penn State before moving to RB. He became a Top 10 pick. Duce Staley was a WR who moved to RB. Ricky Watters played some WR before becoming a full-time RB. And so on.

Denver was a machine from 1995-2005. Whoever they put at RB produced. Terrell Davis. Mike Anderson. Olandis Gary. Clinton Portis.

Can Dallas be the new Denver? Can they plug in anyone behind that OL and get big numbers?

Dallas doesn’t need an elite RB to get results. They do need an elite back to get elite results. That’s the thing that gets lost here. Murray didn’t just have a good year. He was spectacular. He ran for 1,845 yards and 13 TDs. To put that in perspective…after 4 years (YEARS!) Brian Westbrook had run for 2,235 yards and 13 TDs. Emmitt Smith, one of the greatest RBs of all time, never ran for 1,800 yards in a season.

DeMarco Murray was freakishly good in 2014.

Back to Denver. Terrell Davis rushed for 1,538, 1,750 and 2,008 yards from 1996-1998. Those are spectacular numbers. He was a special player.

Olandis Gary ran for 1,159 yards and 7 TDs in 1999. Mike Anderson ran for 1,487 yards and 15 TDs in 2000. The Broncos then invested a 2nd round pick in Clinton Portis and he rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his first 2 years. Nobody came close to the level that Davis played at. He was on a different level.

We also have to remember that Denver wasn’t just any team. They had a brilliant offensive coach in Mike Shanahan. His offensive coordinator was Gary Kubiak. The OL coach for the first part of the Denver run was Alex Gibbs, the man who mastered cut blocking and the one-cut running style that allowed those runners to thrive. Those guys built and perfected a system that works to this day. Shanahan had success with RBs in Washington. Kubiak did the same in Houston.

Dallas has Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Bill Callahan…all solid NFL coaches. They know what they are doing. But they aren’t Shanny, Kubs and Gibbs.

My guess is that Jerry Jones enjoyed seeing Rolando McClain go from nobody to Comeback Player of the Year material. That helped him decide to go after another underachieving Raider, Darren McFadden. Could McFadden benefit from playing in Dallas? Sure. But he’s never run for even 1,200 yards in a season. I don’t think he is going to suddenly turn into a great workhorse runner.

Between McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams and Lache Seastrunk, the Cowboys need to find a couple of guys that can be the foundation of the offense. None of those guys has shown they can do that to this point. That doesn’t mean someone can’t step forward, but there is a lot of projecting going on.

Dallas will miss Murray.

From the Eagles perspective, the question now becomes how good can he be in this offense? I think he can thrive, just as LeSean McCoy did for 2 years. The Eagles also hedged their bet by signing Ryan Mathews to make sure they had good depth and could get away from feeding one player the ball all game long. Murray won’t run for 1,845 yards for the Eagles, but that will largely be due to the fact he doesn’t get 390 carries.

I love the Murray acquisition because I think it helps the Eagles and hurts Dallas. We’ll re-visit this topic in the offseason to see which team ran the ball better and why. My guess is that will be a happy discussion.

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Future Eagle?

Posted: July 8th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 108 Comments »

We talked a bit about the draft yesterday. I hate to do it again, but I have found a player that will definitely be picked by the Eagles. Book it.

Kelby Brown.

All-American ILB at Duke.

Playmaker.

Great student…currently working on graduate degree.

Good frame at 6-2, 230.

Plays on passing downs.

Oh yeah…and just tore his ACL…giving him 4 ACL tears in 5 years.

When the Eagles take him in the 4th round, Chip Kelly can say that without the ACL issues, this player would not have been around that long.

I’m joking, of course. Just giving Chip Kelly a hard time on his ACL fetish.

At least I think I’m joking…

* * * * *

NJ.com found an NFL executive who thinks the Eagles won’t miss Herremans or Mathis at all.

“I don’t know how much either one of them has left,” the executive said of the 30-something guards. “Herremans had a nice career, but you look at the past few years he wasn’t the same. Then, he got hurt last year.

“(Mathis), that’s the craziest thing I ever saw. He either got the worst advice from an agent ever, or he made the dumbest mistake ever. You watch him last year? He’s just a guy at this point. Why do you think he hasn’t been signed?”

And

“Peters,” the executive said, “yeah he’s still real good, probably the best. He’s just a physical freak. You talk to our guys about him they’ll tell you he’s the best. People talk about Tyron Smith in Dallas. He’s good, but I’ll still take Peters.

“(Johnson) is OK, too. You see him developing, getting better. They’re all right there. And the center (Kelce) is good, too. With him, and the two tackles you can find guys to play guard.”

“I haven’t seen a lot of (Barbre), but he’ll be fine,” the executive said. “Moffitt was OK before he hurt his knee. So you have to see how that goes.”

I think that might be overs-stating things just a bit. I think the OL can succeed without Herremans and Mathis because of the talent returning and Kelly’s run-heavy scheme, but there will be some tough moments as well.

And Mathis might be overrated by PFF, but he is still a good player. I don’t have an answer for him not signing yet. That could be him taking his time in looking for the right situation. Or it is possible that teams are shying away from him for now due to his asking price. Mathis may be hit with a nasty bit of economic reality. Guys who are in their 30’s and coming off missing half a season rarely get raises.

Herremans found a good home in Indy. Let’s hope Mathis finds something similar where we can cheer for him, but he won’t affect the Eagles in a competitive way.


Peeking Ahead

Posted: July 7th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 44 Comments »

I know we have yet to see the 2015 Eagles in action, but it is never too early to start some good draft talk. Right?

The one player that intrigues the heck out of me is DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State. He will be a Junior in 2015, but has already established himself as quite a player. He actually started some games for the dominant defense on the 2013 National Championship team.

Ramsey played CB and FS that year. In 2014 he became a full-time starter as the Star, a hybrid position that allows him to move around and do a variety of things. I think the Eagles would love Ramsey as a Safety because he has good man cover skills, but is also very versatile. Ramsey passes the eye test. He lists at 6-1, 201 and is athletic enough that he is a member of the track team.

I have no idea if Ramsey will be on the board when the Eagles pick, but if he is, I’m betting he is one of the players the team will be strongly considering.

* * * * *

Of course the Eagles might be looking for an OL in the 1st round. Or maybe a QB. Jimmy Bama has done a bit of draft writing already and has some thoughts up on USC QB Cody Kessler.

Bama isn’t sold on Kessler. Nor should he be. Kessler is somebody to watch this year, but you need to focus on the final year of a prospect’s game tape. Players can take a serious step forward as they get experience. Some do go backward, unfortunately.

This doesn’t appear to be a strong QB class, but we’ll see how the guys play this year. All it takes is one or two to emerge and things can look very different.

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