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.

PE.com 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.

*****

PE.com 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.

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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 PE.com 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.

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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.

*****

PE.com 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?

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Final Week of OTAs

Posted: May 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 98 Comments »

Today the Eagles begin the final week of OTAs. This isn’t the time of year for making conclusions. This is Lorenzo Booker and Sean Considine season. 90 players are running around in shorts and trying to both learn the scheme and impress the coaches. This isn’t real football.

Focus on the basics. Are QBs throwing the ball well? You want receivers to run crisp routes and then catch the ball. You want RBs to look smooth and show good physical skills. O-linemen can show good footwork and agility. They aren’t allowed to come off the ball and attack defenders so the whole physical side of blocking is left out.

D-linemen are using the most basic of pass rushing moves. LBs need to be in the right gap on run plays and then show they can cover well on pass plays. DBs probably have the most to show. They need to diagnose plays quickly and be in the right spot. They also need to cover well. They aren’t allowed to play bump ‘n run, but the DBs can show you a lot with their instincts and movement skills.

Some writers may talk about Kenjon Barner looking like a starter or Carson Wentz being the smartest QB. Pump the brakes on that stuff. If you have followed football long enough, you know we hear reports like that every year and they rarely turn out as expected.

You can get a lot of false reads in the spring and summer. Remember a few years back when Chris McCoy played lights out and we thought he was a lock to make the team? The guy was great in the preseason. He was a terrific pass rusher. And the Eagles cut him. The Jags signed him and then cut him. McCoy has never played in a real NFL game.

Whether it is seeing someone look great in shorts or beat up on third stringers, this is the time of year when a lot of us can get fooled.

*****

Jeffrey Lurie spoke to Jenny Vrentas for the MMQB on the Eagles QB situation.

5. I think the Eagles’ quarterback strategy comes down to playing the odds, at least as Jeffrey Lurie explains it. “We see it differently than I guess some other people may,” Lurie said at the league meetings. “We see Sam [Bradford] as absolutely the right guy to quarterback the team. We are so rarely able to draft in the Top 5 in the draft. It’s only been twice in about 15-20 years. So we saw the opportunity, and we liked two quarterbacks. We had to make the move to secure having a potential franchise quarterback for many, many years. Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. And it can only benefit us. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. And so when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl. And that’s simple.”

I think most Eagles fans have figured this out as Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have talked about QBs this spring. But just in case…

The Eagles are going back to the old SF/GB model where you load up on QBs. The key to that working is bringing in the right players. Time will tell if the Eagles did that.

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Bounce Back

Posted: May 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 127 Comments »

Mychal Kendricks was disappointing last year. Even he agrees with that. Some people try to rip him apart for how he played. I think those people must have missed the 2009 Eagles LBs. That was some bad LB play. Kendricks certainly had his share of bad plays, but he also made some good ones. He did have 3 sacks, one FF and 6 TFLs. In 2009 the entire Eagles LBs corps totaled 4.5 sacks and 3 FFs. No single LB had more than 3 TFLs.

Kendricks wants to get back to where he was in 2014, when he looked like a possible Pro Bowl candidate. Jeff McLane wrote a good story about Kendricks and his need to play better.

Schwartz’s run defenses have historically been solid. Kendricks said that he was still trying to pin down why that is. Linebackers in a 4-3 “under” scheme should specialize in moving downhill north to south. The two-gap 3-4, which often has linemen hold up blockers and read before reacting, is catered more to east-to-west linebackers who can run down running backs in the open field.

“We may see more people in our face, which means we would have to be more physical,” Kendricks said. “I’m all for it.”

To prepare for the physicality of the coming season, Kendricks has bulked up. He said he now weighs 250 pounds. He typically played at around 235.

“I feel strong. I feel fast still. But I’m a lot more stout than I was,” Kendricks said. “I think you can tell. I’m pretty big right now.”

The Eagles would take healthy and consistent.

I think the new scheme fits Kendricks better than some realize. He has one gap to control. There is less thinking and more attacking. Kendricks can do that.     Read the rest of this entry »