Let’s jump right in and talk about some interesting topics.
Peter King mentioned in an article that the Eagles met with Johnny Manziel. Say what? We’re going for Johnny Football? Uh, no. The Eagles have met with all the top underclassmen for years. This began under Reid/Heckert and continues today. Why? Scouts start doing research on prospects in May. They gather all kinds of info and build detailed reports. Underclassmen declare in late December or early January. The team may have done some preliminary work, but doesn’t have as good a feel for those guys. One way to catch up quickly is to make sure you meet with them at the Combine.
Here is the specific comment from King.
[Manziel and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, declined to discuss how many teams he met with this weekend or which they were, and the executive of the team I just referred to didn’t want to identify his team because it has an established quarterback and didn’t want to drum up controversy in that market. But it’s known from reports in various places that Manziel met with Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia coaches and team officials, and very likely Oakland, this weekend before flying back to Texas late Sunday afternoon.]
This isn’t a big deal. The Eagles are just doing their due diligence.
* * * * *
The WRs worked out on Sunday and they put on quite a show. That’s bad news for Jason Avant and doesn’t really help Riley Cooper either.
We don’t know what Chip Kelly wants in a slot receiver, but he’ll have his choice of players. Does he go for a small, quick guy? Does he prefer someone with speed? Does he want a big guy? The WR class is deep and talented enough that Kelly should be able to find what he’s looking for.
As for Cooper, the amount of good prospects hurts his value to the Eagles and other teams. Would someone in need of a solid starter rather sign Cooper or draft a player like Allen Robinson in the 2nd round? You could go for Martavis Bryant or Jordan Matthews after that. Or maybe you prefer smaller, faster guys. Brandin Cooks is an explosive 2nd round prospect. Or you could go for someone like Bruce Ellington with big upside in a later round.
Cooper is a proven commodity…sort of. He had one breakout season and even that has to be put into context. Cooper played opposite of one of the fastest players in the whole league. His RB led the league in rushing and so did his team. There were a pair of good pass-catching TEs. You can argue that Cooper will get even better with a full season as a starter. Or you can say that he needs the right circumstances to be successful. That all depends on your vantage point.
If the price is right, I’m still in favor of keeping both Maclin and Cooper, but there is something to be said for keeping just one and then adding a receiver in the draft. That guy could come in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th round and still be an effective player as a rookie.
In terms of big receivers, I still think Robinson from PSU would be a great fit. He is 6-3, 220, almost Cooper’s identical size. We know Kelly likes big receivers. Robinson has better RAC skills and could be a good starting receiver. Robinson ran a 4.60, but I expected that. He isn’t a burner on tape. Robinson is a workhorse receiver. He caught 97 passes this year. To put that in perspective, Cooper caught 81 passes in his entire career. I think Robinson is the kind of guy who you could feed the ball to.
That said, some of the speedy guys were a ton of fun to watch. Ellington and Cooks aren’t 6-2, 220 guys, but they are both very dangerous with the ball in their hands. Cooks could sneak into the 1st round, but more likely is a 2nd round pick. He ran 4.33 in the 40, which shows great straight-line speed. He ran 3.81 in the short shuttle, which shows quickness and agility. Can you imagine him in the slot or across the formation from DeSean Jackson? Ellington is incredibly fascinating because he used to be the starting point guard for the South Carolina basketball team. He ran 4.45, which gives him above average speed. Both guys looked terrific in drills. You could see them as gifted athletes with great body control. These guys could be very dangerous in space.
The Eagles could add a pair of receivers, one for the slot and someone else to play outside. The team could cut Avant and then lose Cooper in free agency. Getting Maclin back would make up for one guy, but he would only sign a short-term deal. Add some other player to battle with Arrelious Benn for a roster spot.
– Brandon Graham is a player to keep your eye on this offseason.
The people we talked to believe he is a 4-3 defensive end, pure and simple. Not a scheme fit.Howie Roseman knows the value of pass rushers in this league so I don’t think he will be in a hurry to trade Graham necessarily, but I do think he will entertain any offers that come through.
Graham would benefit from a fresh start and could be attractive to 4-3 teams looking to bolster their pass rush. The Eagles need to build this defense with pieces that fit. Not a lock, but I think there is a decent chance he gets dealt.
I mentioned the other day that I think the Eagles should trade Graham. I don’t see him fitting in the 3-4. Deal him and use some resources (draft pick, money) to build up depth at OLB.
The Scouting Combine really got going on Saturday. That’s when the OL and TEs hit the field to do drills and the athletic tests. Sunday is for WRs, RBs and QBs. Monday is DL/LBs. The DBs will close things out on Tuesday.
This is a very talented, very deep draft class. Tons of athleticism. Chip Kelly has to be drooling as he watches these prospects work out on the field.
For PE.com I wrote a column on understanding the Combine. This is a critical part of the scouting process, with “part” being the key word. Some dismiss this as the underwear olympics. Others think players are defined by how fast they run, how much they lift or how high they jump. Both of those extremes miss the mark.
The Eagles could be in the market for some young OL. Yesterday’s workouts showed a deep, athletic group of blockers. I won’t cover the high prospects because those guys will be long gone by pick 22. Let’s talk about some other guys who could be of interest.
Xavier Su’a-Filo is a very interesting guy. He played LT and OG for UCLA. Mike Mayock relayed a really good story. Coach David Shaw of Stanford recruited Su’a-Filo a few years back. At some point Shaw watched a pickup football game where Su’a-Filo played Safety. Granted, Su’a-Filo probably wasn’t as big back then, but that’s still pretty crazy. Shaw said Su’a-Filo backpedaled and looked good in coverage. He even picked off a pass. Does that sound like the kind of OL that Chip Kelly would like or what?
Su’a-Filo (6-4, 307) ran 5.04 in the 40. He tied for 3rd with a SS of 4.44. Su’a-Filo will play OG in the NFL (doesn’t have OT feet), but he could slide to OT during a game if needed. He is a versatile athlete.
Michael Schofield played RT for Michigan this year. He’s got a frame that Kelly will like at 6-6, 301. Schofield ran the 40 in 5.01, showing better speed than I would have anticipated. He’s not a top athlete, but he is an interesting mid-to-late round target.
Ja’Wuan James from Tennessee is an interesting OT prospect. He is 6-6, 311. He’s got 35-inch arms. Hands are 9 7/8. I thought he was impressive in the on-field drills. He looked especially good in the mirror drill. James looked like a natural pass blocker. He tied for 5th in the vertical jump and was 6th in the 3-cone drill. You’ve got a prospect with a good frame, long arms, athleticism and pass blocking skills. Could be a good mid-round player to take and develop.
Matt Patchan was the LT for Boston College in 2013. He began his career at Florida as a DL. He then moved to the OL. Injuries kept him from playing at all in 2012. Patchan measured in at 6-6, 302. He had a strong day of workouts. Patchan ran 4.97 in the 40 and then had the top VJ at 33.5 inches. He’s another guy with the background, size and athleticism Kelly should like.
We know Kelly likes LSU players. OG Trai Turner was impressive on Saturday. He measured in at 6-3, 310 with 34-inch arms. He then ran 4.93 in the 40. Turner is a pure OG and lacks the size that Kelly wants, but he could be an interesting prospect to draft and develop.
Some of you will scream about 40 time being meaningless for OL. The real key is the 10-yard split, but to my knowledge the NFL doesn’t make them publicly available so I can focus on them. And the Eagles do have a lot of OL who ran fast 40s. Even Allen Barbre, the backup LT, ran a fast 40 when he was at the Combine. Please understand that I’m not saying you simply look at the fastest OL and draft them. The guys have to be good blockers first and foremost. Speed is more than just a bonus trait, but it only matters if the prospect is a good blocker.
The TEs also worked out on Saturday. Eric Ebron is the big name. He measured in at 6-4, 250. I don’t know that he’ll last all the way to pick 22, but if he does, the Eagles could be interested. Ebron could be a special player. If you get the chance to draft someone like that, you have to be be really careful before passing on them. Ebron ran a 4.60, which is very good for his size. Unfortunately he didn’t do a full workout.
Former Oregon TE Colt Lyerla was up and down. He measured in at 6-4, 242. I expected him to be closer to 255. He only did 15 reps on the bench, not good for a TE. But he also ran 4.61, which is very good, and then had a VJ of 39 inches. That’s incredibly impressive for his size.
I’m not going to write about a bunch of TEs. The Eagles will take someone if it is the right guy, but I don’t think they’ll feel they must go get one.
The Eagles would love to add a big time Safety. Unfortunately I don’t expect the Browns to let T.J. Ward hit the market. The Bills used the franchise tag on Jarius Byrd last year, which made me doubt they would do that this year. Ian Rapoport shot down that notion with this tweet.
The #Bills still want to do a deal with S Jairus Byrd. If not, I’m told they plan to franchise tag him. Won’t let him get away for nothing
I don’t know if the Eagles were going to make a play for Byrd, but it would have been nice to have the option. The Bills putting the tag on Byrd hurts the Eagles in a couple of ways. It takes a good target off the free agent market. And it affects Nate Allen. My guess is that the Eagles would like to re-sign him to a cheap deal. Fewer guys on the market helps Allen from a negotiating standpoint. No one is going to pay much for him, but all it takes is some other team offering a few more bucks.
I think ideally the Eagles would like to keep Allen and add a high draft pick so that there are multiple options at Safety. Earl Wolff is already in place, but you want depth and competition. You can’t add one player and consider the situation solved.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman brushed off the notion that the Eagles need to upgrade the nose tackle spot during a chat with Philly reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He said Logan, a third-round pick out of LSU in 2013, can carry another 20 pounds on his frame and said Logan’s lack of height – he stands 6-foot-1 – is tempered considerably by his freakishly long reach.
“When you talk about Bennie, it’s kind of funny, because when you first see Benny, he’s 6-1, but he’s got a frame that can easily withstand 320 pounds,” Roseman said.
“He’s got 34-inch arms, he’s got really big hands, his wingspan is actually six inches longer than his height, so he has the wingspan of a guy who’s 6-3 or 6-4.”
We don’t know how much of the comments is fluff and how much is legit. Because the Eagles had such a high grade on Logan (Top 50) and because the defense played well with him in the lineup, I could see the Eagles liking him more than some realize. I don’t see NT as a need, but there are plenty of people who disagree with me.
Seattle DE Michael Bennett is #1 on their list. We haven’t discussed him much. I think Bennett is better suited to the 4-3, but you never know if the Eagles might see him as someone who could make the move to 3-4 OLB. We know he can definitely rush the passer. Bennett turns 29 this year so giving him a big deal is tricky.
The only player on the list who the Eagles would have definite interest in is Brian Orakpo. The Skins have already started talking to him about a new deal, but I don’t know if Orakpo wants to stay or is tired of that dysfunctional organization. If he does hit the market, there could be a bidding war. I go back and forth on whether he’s a guy you go after aggressively. Orakpo feels like a player that you will have to overpay for and I’m not sure that’s wise with Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham already in place. The Eagles need pass rush help to be sure, but I wouldn’t say this is a desperate situation (see the 2003 Eagles for an example of that).
Howie Roseman is in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine. He spoke to the general media on Thursday and then spoke to the Philly media in a casual Q&A. Howie didn’t drop any bombshells, but that was to be expected. He is always careful with what he says. That can make for some boring press conferences, but it is the smart way to deal with the media. Being honest and/or outspoken can be entertaining for fans, but it doesn’t help the team at all.
The main PC was uneventful. At one point Howie was talking about finding the right players and made reference to the Eagles as a team that runs the ball. I have to say, that comment made me smile. It really does feel good to think of the Eagles as a running team. The run game is key to the scouting process now. The wide receivers must be good blockers. The TEs must be willing blockers with solid potential. The O-linemen must be good run blockers. And you need 2 to 3 good RBs on the roster.
Howie talked a lot about competition. I know some people think this is a load of bunk. Others don’t get all the talk of competition. Does it really mean anything?
I think it does mean something. Let’s take Seattle for example. In 2012 they had a good veteran rusher in DE Chris Clemons (11 sacks). They had a talented rookie rusher in Bruce Irvin (8 sacks). Rookie Greg Scruggs had a couple of sacks. So what did the team do this past offseason? They drafted DTs and then signed Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and O’Brien Schofield as free agents. Instead of signing one guy or maybe two, they brought in three pass rushers. They wanted competition on the DL.
Check out what they did at RB. The team had an elite runner in Marshawn Lynch. They had a young back named Robert Turbin that they spend a 2012 4th round pick on. When the 2013 draft rolled around the Seahawks spend their first pick (2nd rounder) on RB Christine Michael. Then in the 6th round they added Spencer Ware. That is a very gifted set of RBs.
Seattle’s weak spot has been the OL in recent years. They didn’t spend any 2012 picks on blockers and didn’t take one in 2013 until the 7th round. You can find RBs anywhere, but Seattle spent a 4th, 2nd and 6th rounder on them over 2 year while virtually ignoring the O-line. To be fair, Seattle did spend a late pick in 2012 on DL J.R. Sweezy and then converted him to OG. This past April they used a 7th rounder on OL Ryan Seymour.
I would have ripped the Seahawks for adding RBs and virtually ignoring the O-line, but that worked for them. They obviously didn’t like the blockers in the last couple of draft classes as much as they liked other players. Instead of worrying about need, they focused on adding players they liked. You can argue about the merits of this philosophy, but it certainly worked for them. And Pete Carroll preaches competition more than any other coach in the NFL.
I sometimes think people misunderstand the word “competition”. It isn’t an insult to the players currently on the roster. You aren’t necessarily saying “we must have competition here to get better”. You’re really talking about stocking up on talent and letting the players battle for snaps. If the Broncos came to you and said for a 7th round pick you can have S Rahim Moore, S Duke Ihenacho or TE Julius Thomas, the decision would take less than one second and would be Thomas. The Eagles need Safety help, not another TE. But Thomas is too talented to pass up. You grab him.
If the talent level is close, you always go for need, but things don’t always work that way. And sometimes competition is a good thing because it can push the players already on your roster. The goal is to find the best players possible, whether through free agency, the draft or on your own roster.
The interesting thing here is his comment about spending resources. Too often we assume that if you spend a high pick or give out a big contract, a problem gets solved. It doesn’t work like that. Throwing resources at a problem doesn’t guarantee anything. You need answers…the right answers.
If there is a Safety worth handing a big contract to, do it. If there is a Safety worth taking at 22, do it. But don’t force those moves just to say “We tried to solve the problem in a tangible way.” Sure, that will appease some fans and media, but you need to make sure to use those resources wisely. Remember that we’re always one play away from having a big hole at any spot on the roster.
Howie did say that the Eagles would be willing to make a big move in free agency if the circumstances were right. They won’t overpay for the heck of it, but if the right guy hits the market and the price makes sense, the Eagles will pull the trigger. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward might seem like great targets, but we don’t know what the Eagles think of them. I’m still not convinced Ward will hit the market. He feels like a serious franchise tag candidate. The Eagles would prefer a slow and steady approach, but Howie did mention that the team isn’t afraid to take risks. In a few weeks, we’ll find out if this is the right set of circumstances for taking a risk.
The Eagles have prioritized retaining Jeremy Maclin before Riley Cooper as the wide receivers near free agency, according to NFL sources.
If all goes to plan, the Eagles will sign Maclin to a one-year contract and attempt to acquire another starting-caliber receiver via free agency. Cooper remains on the radar, and the Eagles could circle back if they don’t land another target, but securing Maclin will take precedence.
This does make sense. Maclin is the more talented player. Cooper had a terrific season, but let’s not pretend that he did anything that would register as special. I’d love to have him back for the sake of continuity, but you can’t overpay him based on a season. Maclin is also a year younger, believe it or not.
As much fun as it was to have Coop break out in 2013, the Eagles got lucky that DeSean Jackson stayed healthy. Coop would not have been able to be the #1 WR. He isn’t a guy that will beat star corners, let alone double coverage. Mac can be “they guy” if needed. He can thrive in Chip Kelly’s offense if his knee checks out and if he will block for Shady and the runners. I’m guessing sitting out 2013 will have Mac motivated to get back on track.
The other day I did a post on Auburn DE/LB Dee Ford. Included in the post was a video by the guys at Draft Breakdown. A reader watched the video and came away unimpressed. He essentially said, “What am I supposed to be impressed by?”
I don’t have the time to explain what to look for in regard to every prospect and their videos, but let’s walk through one together. I’ve chosen LB Anthony Barr from UCLA. Some fans think he could slide far enough for the Eagles to get him or to trade up and get him. I don’t see that happening, but I’d certainly love to have a talent like him at OLB.
Here is the video.
Before we start, let’s talk about some generic scouting points. Understand that you are trying to identify good pro football prospects. You aren’t looking for purely college accomplishment. We would then just go to the stats page if that was the case. Scouting is as much about how as it is what. A player can go without a sack in a game and still have dominated. Did he occupy multiple blockers on a regular basis? Did the other team gameplan around him? Maybe they threw only short passes. Maybe they avoided rollout plays, which could be a big deal if that is part of their offense. Maybe the rusher got enough pressure to affect the QB even if he didn’t sack or even hit him.
Results are important, but how a player played is the most important factor.
Also, we’re not looking for a polished NFL player. We’re looking for a prospect with the right combination of football skills, size, strength and athleticism to become a good pro football player.
Okay, let’s talk about the video.
* On the first snap, Barr engages the TE, shoves him back, disengages and then gets into the backfield. He didn’t make the play since the ball didn’t come his way, but that was an impressive start. You saw a good burst. You saw strength. Barr used his hands well. Good stuff.
* The 3rd play has Barr in space. He doesn’t accomplish anything since it is a downfield throw, but watch his footwork as he moves around. You can see he is an agile LB that moves well.
* The play at the :45 mark is impressive. He attacks the QB and misses the shovel pass to the RB. But look at the burst he shows as he goes for the QB. That is impressive. This is what I mean by focusing on a player’s skills/ability more than the result of the specific play. NFL coaches can teach Barr how to read keys, but they can’t teach Joe Schmoe how to be more explosive.
* At the 1:05 mark of the video, Barr comes upfield and takes on a blocker. He uses his shoulder. Coaches would probably rather have him use his hands so he could shed the blocker and get in on the play. That can be coached. The good nugget here is that Barr aggressively took on the blocker. He’s not just a “run around” guy. Some rushers have a tendency to run around blocks, thinking they can get by the guy and make the play. Those guys take themselves out of the play about half the time. That’s doing the offense a favor.
* The play at the 1:15 mark once again shows good speed. He also shows body control and COD (change of direction) ability. Barr wasn’t smooth as he did this, but he was able to turn and pursue. Some speed guys are straight line. They struggle to turn and chase.
* At the 1:50 mark you see Barr in coverage. He closes on the underneath receiver almost instantly and then is athletic enough to turn and chase the play out wide. He eventually gets in on the tackle.
At the end of the 1st quarter, Barr hasn’t yet hit the QB on a dropback pass, but he’s shown the elements of being a good pass rusher. We’ve seen quickness, speed, body control, COD ability and closing speed. These are the traits of a good NFL pass rusher. That’s what we’re looking for.
Luckily we have 3 more quarters to see Barr in action, as well as plenty of other games. There is no question that he’s a gifted pass rusher and dynamic athlete. I’d love him to be an Eagle. I just don’t think that is likely.
Are there concerns? Sure. All prospects have issues. I’ll discuss Barr in-depth in a full post. For now I just wanted to walk you through part of a video to give you an idea of what I’m seeing.
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