More On MLB And CB

Posted: July 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments »

Stewart Bradley, Jamar Chaney, and Casey Matthews are 3 very different players.  Those are the 3 candidates the Eagles have to be the starting MLB in 2011.  Let’s talk about what they do well and how they would function in the new system.

Stewart Bradley is the biggest of the bunch.  NFL.com lists him at 6’4, 258.  Even if that is off a bit, he’s still the biggest.  Stew runs well for a guy his size.  If you put on the 2008 tape you see a LB that is tough and physical.  He’s able to shed blockers and get to the ball.  Stew is underrated in terms of coverage skills, but can be awkward at times in space.  At his best, he’s a vertical player.  He is a short area guy that wants to attack North-South.

The new system is going to have the MLB play off the ball and be more of a read and react player.  This requires a LB that is more of a horizontal player.  Jamar Chaney has the speed and range to make plays all over the field.  Chaney wasn’t very good in college at getting off blocks, but the coaches worked with him a lot last summer and I was very impressed with the progress he made.  Chaney had the physical tools to shed blocks.  He just needed to work on technique.  He did that in practice and it showed on the field.  Chaney is athletic, but didn’t show much of a feel for pass coverage.  I’m sure that’s the area the coaches will focus on when the lockout does finally lift.

Casey Matthews is the most instinctive player of the trio.  Casey is lighter and slower than both Stew and Chaney.   Casey makes plays because of his eyes.  He has good field vision.  He trusts what he sees and then goes for the ball.  Bradley likes to attack immediately.  Chaney doesn’t have ideal key and diagnose skills.  He reacts to what is in front of him, but doesn’t process things as quickly and smoothly as Casey.  I think Casey has the best cover skills of the group.  He knows how to handle man coverage, but also how to get in the passing lanes and make things happen.  I guess I should temper that and say that he knows how to do this at the college level.

Casey is totally unproven in the NFL obviously.  He plays faster than he times because of his instincts and ability to know what will happen.  If those instincts don’t work as well in the NFL, Casey might not have the speed to be a good starting MLB.  Casey also has to show that he can handle blockers.  That was a weak point for him at Oregon.  He’s a physical player and should be able to improve in this area, but it does need a lot of work.

The new scheme requires the LBs to read the play and then go get the ball.  You cannot just attack at the snap.  Ernie Sims head might explode if he tried to fully embrace this concept.  Hesitation just isn’t in his nature.  Stew has the physical ability to play in the scheme, but I don’t know if he can adjust his style of play.  Old habits die hard.

One thing all 3 guys have in common is great intangibles.  All 3 are leaders.  All 3 are highly competitive, something that is critical at MLB.

I really think Chaney will be the WLB.  Stew and Casey then would battle for MLB, assuming Stew sticks around.  It is possible he’ll go to another team.  I think the stability of staying here will make it tough to leave unless he’s blown away by an offer.  We’re making changes in scheme and on the staff, but he still knows Andy Reid and his teammates.  Stew would still be in a comfortable environment and part of a successful tradition.  Were he to try and go to Carolina or Cleveland and meet up with an old coach, he’d be surrounded by strangers and less than ideal circumstances.  If he wants a 1-year deal, the Eagles are his best match.

We still don’t know if the Eagles want Stew.  I’m guessing they do for 2011, but that’s just a stab in the dark.  This isn’t like Quintin Mikell where you can read the tea leaves and see that he’s a goner.

So much uncertainty and confusion on July 1st.  This lockout mess is insane.

* * * * *

Adam Caplan recently responded to the talk of a Kevin Kolb trade to Arizona.  Caplan said he didn’t see the Cardinals giving up on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  He did throw out the name of LB Daryl Washington.  Interesting.

I don’t know if the Eagles would have serious interest in Washington.  He would fit the new system quite well as a WLB.  Daryl is a gifted cover LB.  I remember watching TCU against Clemson in the fall of 2009.  He broke up a downfield pass.  I made a note to find out about the Safety from TCU who had the impressive PBU.  That pass break-up didn’t come from a S.  It was Washington.  He’s not just a finesse cover ‘backer.  Washington played inside a lot in college because TCU ran a 4-2-5 scheme.  It’s possible he could play MLB in our new system.

Washington had a solid rookie year for the Cardinals.  He started 11 games and played in all 16.  He had 78 total tackles, 6 TFLs, 1 FF, 1 INT, and 2 PDs.  By comparison, Stew had 60 total tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 sack, 6 PDs, and 1 INT.  He played in fewer games, of course.

Washington would give the Eagles a boost in the LB department and that does make him an interesting potential trade target.  The flip side is that we just drafted 2 LBs last year and 3 more this year.  We’re rebuilding our LB corps already.  That may make Washington less important.

The other key point here is that we’d have to get a pretty good pick with Washignton in a deal for Kolb.  Would Arizona pay that price?

I don’t see Washington as a likely target for the Eagles.  He could be a second or third option if the right picks aren’t available and DRC is truly off the table.  I just don’t anticipate Daryl playing for us in 2011.

* * * * *

After the recent discussion about Ike Taylor and some other CBs, someone on Twitter got on me for earlier saying the Eagles would pursue a top CB.  Let’s examine this for a second.

The Eagles have Asante Samuel, who most think is a Top 5 CB in the NFL.  Even if you disagree a bit, he’s still Top 10.  The Eagles are looking for a #2 CB, someone to play the right side.

The notion that this is Nnamdi Asomugha or bust is silly.  Nnamdi is the #2 CB in the entire NFL.  He’s the guy you get and then build your secondary around him.  That’s drastically different than what we require.

Do I still love the thought of signing Nnamdi?  Heck yes.  It isn’t a “must” though.  Adding someone below him doesn’t mean the Eagles are settling at all.  Ellis Hobbs was the kind of guy we settled on last year.  He was purely a fallback option.  Had he been on the market, do you think multiple teams would have pursued him.  No way – as a starter at least.  Good KOR and role player, but marginal starter.

The CBs I mentioned the other day were DRC, Ike Taylor, Carlos Rogers, and Josh Wilson.  All of those guys would be upgrades on Hobbs.  All will have offers from multiple teams.  All of those guys are or have been the top CB on a defense.  Those are the kind of targets we should have at RCB.

I understand how as fans you fall into the “Nnamdi or bust” mindset, but holding the Eagles to that standard isn’t fair.  If we needed him, the Eagles would do whatever it took to land him.  That’s how they went after Troy Vincent in 1996 (great job by Joe Banner with a poison pill).  That’s how they went after Asante Samuel in 2008 (great job by Banner and the coaches who recruited Asante).

We might want Nnamdi Asomugha, but we don’t need him.  We need better play at RCB.  There are other options that might fit the better overall plan for the team and the offseason.  I would still love to see the Eagles work something out and land Nnamdi, but he’s a luxury item at this point.

* * * * *

Newest PE.com column is up.  I was doing some research recently and got to thinking about the Colts, Pats, and Eagles.  What will Indy and NE be like without Manning/Brady?  We’ve already had our change and things are holding strong.


The Man In The Middle

Posted: June 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 19 Comments »
Stew scares some Texans

Disco Stew celebrates after lightin' up some suckas. "I own the middle. You're just tourists and the price of admission is - pain!!!"

 

I’ve written quite a bit this spring/summer about what will happen at LB.  I stand by my contention that the starting LB corps will be Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Keenan Clayton, and Chad Greenway.  Obviously someone needs to tell Juan Castillo that 4-3 means only 3 LBs.  Don’t blame him.  The guy has been an O-line coach for 15 years.  What the heck does he know?

Okay, joking aside, I have speculated about LB quite a bit, but that’s all it is…speculation.  The police chief in Miller’s Crossing has a great line that sums up my thoughts on LB, “I was just speculatin’ about a hypothesis. I know I don’t know nothin.”

There isn’t one thing set for the 2011 LBs.  We think Fokou will be the SAM and Chaney the WIL, but even those spots aren’t set in stone.  The Eagles want Rashad Jeanty to push Fokou.  Chaney could be in the middle or outside.  He will have competition at either spot and the Eagles want him to win his job, not just get it by default.

MLB really is the spot of uncertainty.  We don’t know the rules of free agency for sure, but it certainly sounds like he’ll be on the market.  Will the Eagles bring him back?

Time for more speculatin’.  I think the Eagles want to bring Stew back for 2011 on a 1-year deal.  They want him to battle Casey Matthews for the MLB spot.  The idea is that Stew will win the job (bigger, faster, more experienced) and then have the 2011 season to show what he can do.

Back in 2008 Stew looked like a star in the making.  He was perfect for the scheme at that time.  He was able to attack downhill and blow up OL.  He was strong enough to shed blocks when OL got out to the 2nd level.  Stew runs very well for a 255-pound LB.  His cover skills improved quite a bit during the season.  He posted good numbers:

108 total tackles (86 solo) – both figures led the team

1 sack, 1 INT, 9 TFLs, 6 Passes Defensed, 1 FF, 1 FR

The defense finished very high across the board.  Life was good.  We had our successor to the Byron Evans – Jeremiah Trotter legacy of stud MLBs.  And then Stew tore his ACL in the 2009 preseason.

I hoped he’d be close to 100% in 2010 because he had a full 13 months to heal from the injury to the start of the ’10 season.  Oops.  I was only off by a tad…let’s say 1 astronomical unit for argument’s sake.  Stew wasn’t anything close to 100%.  He was a major disappointment.

He is 100% healthy now.  He’s also got new coaches and an adjusted scheme to deal with.  Stew isn’t ideal for this system.  That fact and the fear that he’ll never get back to where he was has to make the Eagles hesitant to sign him long term.  At the same time, the NFL isn’t full of guys with his size and speed.  Plus, Stew is a high character guy and natural leader.  He’s the kind of person you want in the middle of your defense and running the show.

Stew knows he stunk up the joint in 2010.  I can’t see any team offering him a huge deal.  He’s in a tough spot as to what’s best for him.  He can go elsewhere and get a long term contract, but not at the money he wants.  Or, he can sign in Philly for a year and roll the dice that he’ll bounce back and be a hot commodity in 2012.

There are a couple of risks with that plan.  What if he gets hurt again?  What if Matthews turns out to be a perfect fit for the new scheme and wins the MLB job?

Stew has some tough speculatin’ to do on his own.  He’s got to balance risk and reward.  He’s got to figure out if he can play well enough in the new system to make it worth his while to stay here for a year.  Stew may think he’d be right at home in a read ‘n react system.  Or he may think he’d be lost.

I haven’t even mentioned a potential move to SAM.  He was drafted with the idea that SAM would be his primary position.  That is still possible, but I don’t see it as all that likely.

My guess is that Stew signs a 1-year deal and stays at MLB.  As for the future…who the heck knows.

* * * * *

Adam Caplan of FoxSports.com listed his Top 15 Defensive Free Agents.  Most of the players he lists us with made sense.  He did say the Eagles would, according to sources, show “strong interest” in Ike Taylor.  Good.  That meshes well with what I wrote yesterday.  I think Taylor would be a good addition for the Eagles.

Caplan did catch me off guard with one comment.  First, I was surprised that MLB Kirk Morrison made the list of top 15 defensive FAs.  Then Caplan listed the Eagles as a possible suitor.  Interesting.

I would dismiss this if it weren’t Caplan.  He’s well connected with the Eagles.  I don’t know if he has heard from a good source that the team has interest in Morrison or if this is just speculation on his part.  Either way, it is interesting.

Here’s my problem with it.  I think Juan Castillo wants Casey Matthews to be the MLB of the future.  Would you commit to Morrison for 2 or 3 years and have Casey sit?  I don’t think Morrison would have any interest in a 1-year deal.  Wouldn’t make sense for a guy who is 29, unless he thinks playing for a legit contender would be a wise short term move.

Morrison has plenty of starting experience, but he’s been on some mediocre units.  I’m not sure exactly what Kirk would bring to the table at this point.  I think of him as an adequate starter, but nothing more.


More On Casey Matthews

Posted: May 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: | 7 Comments »

I talked a lot about LB Casey Matthews over the past few months.  I thought he would be a key target for Juan Castillo as he tries to bring some new type of LBs to the Eagles.  Matthews is instinctive, has a great motor, and makes plays.  He finished his career with 30.5 TFLs, 4 INTs, and 10 pass deflections.  That shows the ability to make plays in the backfield or downfield in coverage.

Matthews isn’t huge.  He’s not a great athlete.  He’s also not a small school guy we took a flier on.  Casey is an experienced, talented player who helped lead his team to the national championship game.  Quite simply, Casey is a linebacker.  A pure LB.  There are no thoughts of making him a DE or S.

There is a question of where Casey fits best.  I think he can play any spot in the new defense.  I don’t anticipate us having the SAM up on the line of scrimmage as much as in the past so even that is a possibility.  The reason you might use him there is to cover TEs.  I think he’s most likely to be MLB or WLB.  Let him use his instincts and nose for the ball in those spots where there is more action.

The Eagles brought Casey to the NovaCare to meet with him and get a better feel for the kind of person he is.  Obviously they liked him.  My guess is that Castillo loved Matthews’ personality.  You can tell by watching game tape that Matthews is tough, driven, and ultra-competitive.  He’s a natural leader.  He’s a clutch player.

There are no guarantees Matthews will become a starter, let alone a high quality player.  I guarantee effort won’t be an issue.  He will do everything in his power to be the best player he can.  We must keep expectations realistic.  He is not Clay Matthews.  Not even close.  Clay is a disruptive pass rusher.  Casey is a 4-3 LB.  He’s not going to be an impact player like Clay.  A star OLB like Lance Briggs isn’t as much of an impact player as Clay.  That’s the difference in being a pass rusher and a LB.  I do think Casey could become a good starting LB for us.  I don’t anticipate him starting as a rookie, but depending on what happens with Stewart Bradley, it is possible.  I think one other aspect of Casey really attracted the Eagles – brains.  Casey is smart and coachable.  Combine that with his experience and he should be a quick learner in the NFL.

Casey wasn’t my favorite LB in the draft, but I did like him.  I think he’ll fit in well here.  He is the most natural, instinctive LB we’ve drafted in years (William Thomas maybe).  I expect him to be an impact STer in 2011.  Let’s hope we have a normal training camp and preseason.  It would be great to see him play a lot so we can get a feel for where he is right now and what position he’s best suited for.

Here is a video of Casey getting the call from the Eagles on draft weekend.  Very cool stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmQVpiVUfuM

* * * * *

I took a little mini-vacation from Sunday through Wednesday so I could travel to L.A. and visit my friend Josh as he did his charity event.  That’s why I didn’t post too much in the past few days.  That will change now that I’m back in town.  I’ll post answers to the draft questions on Thursday or Friday.


Hope For Hunt + Draft Q&A

Posted: April 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 11 Comments »
Is Hunt a CFL Vagabond or NFL Sleeper?

Is Hunt An NFL Sleeper?

 

Interesting note from PE.com.  The guy who did the SackSEER stuff last year (prediction model for pass rushing prospects) put a blurb about Phillip Hunt in his report for this year.  His model predicts good things for Hunt.  There are no guarantees.  Formulas and statistical models are interesting, but numbers on paper don’t always translate to NFL reality.  Still, maybe I undervalued the addition of Hunt.  Maybe he can become a good situational rusher for us.  I’m definitely more intrigued by him after reading the new report.

* * * * *

Draft Q&A

First topic … Casey Matthews.

There wasn’t one question with him, but rather several issues.  First, I’m not a Matthews guy.  I like Casey, but he’s not a player I’m enamored with.  Anyone who saw him play should at least like the guy.  I mention him a lot because I think Castillo will be a Matthews guy.  I think Casey has the kind of personality that Juan will want in his LBs.  When I list him in a mock draft it isn’t because I’m dying for the Eagles to get him.  I’m reading into the fact that the Eagles brought him in for a visit and that he fits what I think Castillo wants.

A few people touched on the fact that he’s only being talked about because of his brother.  Not true.  Clay’s success has impacted Casey, but not the way people think.  Both guys got their first college start in 2007, Casey as a Freshman and Clay as a Junior.  Casey became a regular starter in the middle of his Sophomore season.  Clay didn’t emerge as a regular player until his senior year.

Casey had 3 INTs, 3 sacks, a FF, and 3 PBUs as a Senior.  The top ILB in the whole draft, Martez Wilson, had 1 INTs, 4 sacks, 3 FFs, and 4 PBUs this year.  Casey’s numbers stack up.  He’s not just the product of his brother’s hype.  Casey was the leading tackler on the #34 defense in the country and a team that played for the National Title.  His brother’s hype didn’t have anything to do with that.  Don’t sell Casey short.  Good player.  Good prospect.  He isn’t anything like his brother in terms of NFL ability, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good starter.

I personally love him as a pass defender and effort guy, but have concerns about his ability to deal with blockers and handle inside run plays.  Guess what?  A lot of college LBs struggle with those issues.  I had serious concerns about Jamar Chaney’s ability to  shed blocks.  The Eagles coached him up on that and he responded well.  Matthews could do the same.

No QB in the mock?

We’ve talked about this a lot.  If Andy likes a QB, he’ll take one.  We don’t need a QB.  Andy looks at QBs every year.  The Eagles were the first team to call Brady Quinn’s high school coach about him as a prospect.  I’ve mentioned the fact that the Eagles liked Matt Leinart a lot.  Andy first noticed Kevin Kolb while watching him as a Freshman in a Friday night game on ESPN.  Andy will look high and low for QBs.  If he finds one he likes (and the value is right), he’ll take the guy.

What do you think of Mark Herzlich?

Love Herzlich and everything he’s done to overcome cancer and get back on the field. Projecting him to the NFL is tough.  The guy from 2008 was a 1st rounder.  Question was only how high.  I watched several games this year.  He was rusty early, but got better as the season went along.  He played in the Senior Bowl, but wasn’t impressive.  He just looked slow to me.

Mark ran in the 4.9 range at the Combine, which isn’t good for a LB, even one that is 6’3, 244.  When a guy looks slow on tape and times slow in a workout, that’s not good.  Now you wonder if he’ll ever get faster as he leg continues to get better.  If you think he can improve at all, that’s a big deal.  Him just getting down to 4.8 would be really good.  That’s functional speed.

I don’t think the Eagles will go for him.  Juan is putting his focus on findings LBs that run well.  He might be willing to make an exception with Herzlich because of his character and playing style, but I’m not counting on it.  Herzlich would play SAM for us.  Some teams could look at him as an ILB, but I think most people will value him most at SAM.  He still has excellent coverage instincts.  I think he’ll be a late pick, but I’d love to be wrong.  It would be great to see someone take him in the 4th round.

Why in the mock did you have us take a SS?  Why no backup FS?

I think Nate Allen will be the starting FS this year.  As of now, I’m projecting Kurt Coleman at SS.  That leaves Colt Anderson to come off the bench.  I certainly hope the Eagles look for a veteran, but we can’t count on that for now.  I think the Eagles should go for the highest rated Safety, regardless of FS vs SS.  If Nate gets hurt, Kurt can slide to that spot, as he did last year.

Ideally, Nate will be healthy all year and whoever we pick will challenge Kurt and Colt for the other starting Safety job.  Remember, this isn’t the old NFL where the SS had to be a ferocious run defender and the FS a ballhawk.  More and more we see interchangeable guys at Safety.  Offenses do a lot of shifting and motion to create mis-matches.  Your SS needs to have solid cover skills.  It’s possible the FS will have to move down into the box.  He’s got to be able to play the run.  Just get me a good Safety and I’m happy.

How does the CBA affect things?

Complicated question.  First, I do think that teams have to focus more on need.  You don’t know if or when free agency will happen.  You can’t assume you’ll find a RG or CB in FA that can come in and start at a high level.  You need to try to address them in the draft.  Now, that doesn’t mean drastically reaching.  You still need to trust your draft board.  In my mock draft for ScoutsNotebook I had a few teams reach for need, especially ones with a coach on the hot seat or a team that is ready to contend.  I could be dead wrong, but we’ll see what happens.  This is unknown territory.  Nobody is sure what to expect.

Someone else brought up the point of need and putting resources together to address those positions.  Call it quality vs quantity.  Why use all the picks?  Consolidate them for maximum impact since we have needs and this isn’t a great draft class?  I think the Eagles do need to land players who can contribute with the first 3 picks.  Beyond that, I’m flexible.

One thing you have to be careful about is listening to guys who say the Eagles are loaded with picks.  Yes, the team has 10 picks.  5 have some value, but the last 5 not much.  We’re talking:

5th – #149

5th – #152

7th – #227

7th – #237  Comp pick

7th – #240  Comp pick
The picks in rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4 are quality picks.  The problem is we need to use most of them to fill some holes.  If we had an extra 2nd or 3rd, I’d say let’s use it to move up.  That isn’t the case.  I don’t think we have the kind of resources to do a whole lot of moving around (aside from player trades).  We can’t trade the Comp picks, so even if they did have value we’d be out of luck.

The one wildcard in all of this is undrafted free agents.  The Eagles have been pretty good in the Andy Reid era with finding players from UDFAs.  As of right now, teams won’t be allowed to sign UDFAs with no CBA in place.  We may now use the 7th round picks to take players that we previously would have gone after as UDFAs.  Those late picks could have value in that sense.  I’m hoping something is worked out so teams can sign UDFAs, but have no idea if that will happen.  It would eventually, but I’m talking about sooner rather than later.