Howard Mudd, Plaxico Burress, and More on Chad Hall

Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , , , | 17 Comments »

For SB Nation I took an updated look at the O-line.  I am excited about having Mudd as the OL coach because he’s been so good over the years, but also because I wasn’t enamored with some of the guys we added over the years.  We’re now going for grinders.  They won’t physically dominate you, but that wasn’t going to happen in our pass-happy system anyway.  If we’re going to be a passing team, go get athletic pass blockers and guys that play with a chip on their shoulder.

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NY Daily News writer Gary Myers opened a can of worms over the weekend with some comments about the Eagles and WR Plaxico Burress.  “I’ve heard that the Eagles will eventually be first in line, but there’s also speculation the Steelers, Chargers, Falcons and Ravens could also be interested.

Gary is a solid NFL writer, but I’m not so sure about his connections to the Eagles.  I’m betting this “info” came from Burress or someone in NY.  I don’t know if that person believes the info or is just trying to drum up interest in Plaxico.  Regardless, I’m not buying it.

Burress would come here to be the #3 or #4 WR.  If we use him as #3, then is he working the slot or are we moving Jeremy Maclin in there?  Mac didn’t come across as the most physical guy last year.  I’m not thinking he’d aggressively embrace regularly working the slot.  Would Burress?

Our backup WRs play on STs.  Jason Avant had 4 solo tackles last year.  Riley Cooper had 3.  Would we bring in a guy like Burress to be a role player, knowing he wouldn’t contribute on STs?  Doesn’t make sense.

It would be nice to have Plaxico as a Red Zone target, but Reid has never fully embraced the fade pass.  He said Donovan wasn’t real good at it, but I don’t recall our other 37 QBs throwing it much either.  Reid would rather run the sprint right so the QB can have no one open and throw the ball into the 8th row.  Seriously, isn’t that the worst RZ play in the NFL, at least as run by us?

I seriously doubt Plax is a target for the Eagles.  Now, if this turns out to be true, it will be a sign that Reid is going all-in on the Eagles being a Super Bowl team in 2011.  You don’t add Plax unless you expect to compete for a title or if you need a WR.  We no longer need WRs.

Final note…back in 2005 when Plax left the Steelers and was a free agent, there were consistent rumors that the Eagles were interested.  I have never confirmed from any of my sources if that was true or not.  It makes you wonder if this is all Plax’s agent just stirring up the market, just like he might have been doing back then.

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How does Chad Hall compare to Danny Amendola or Danny Woodhead?  I’ve gotten a few questions about comparing the situations.  This ties in to what I was trying to get at the other day.  Amendola was on the Dallas Practice Squad for all of 2008.  He came to the Eagles in 2009 and was snatched away by the evil Rams.  He had a year to adjust to the league before he got on the field.  And he wasn’t great in ’09.  Danny averaged 7.6 yards per reception, with a long play of 25 yards.  He ran 3 times for -2 yards.  He only got into the endzone once all year.  He did post okay PR numbers and good KOR numbers.  Last year Amendola played better on offense and scored 4 TDs.

Danny Woodhead is a RB that can play the slot and catch the ball.  He spent 2008 on IR.  He then played for the Jets in 2009 and put up modest numbers.  He had a breakout season in 2010, but most of that was on the ground.

Hall spent time with teams in the summers of 2008 and 2009, but that’s hardly the same thing as being part of a team for an entire season.  Even being on IR gives you a chance to understand the game as you sit in on film sessions and listen to coaches.  Hall had to learn on the fly in 2010.

When you compare “first season” numbers among the three, Hall is fine.  That doesn’t mean he’ll turn out to be as good as them.  It does give you some hope that he could become a good role player.  Of course, it might help if he changed his first name to Danny.  Or Betty (anyone get that reference?).

Amendola 09:  3-(-2) rushing, 43-326-1 receiving, long of 25 yards, 12 yds PR, 25 yd KOR

Woodhead 09:  15-64 rushing, 8-87 receiving, long play of 24 yards, only 1 KOR

Hall   2010:     9-29 rushing, 11-115-1 receiving, long of 48, 10 yds per PR, 16 per KOR

Eagles Take G Danny Watkins at 23

Posted: April 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 68 Comments »

Eagles take OG Danny Watkins.  6’4, 312

Here are my notes from ScoutsNotebook:

Probably the most interesting prospect in the whole draft. 26 years old. Has a limited football background. Spent time as a firefighter in Canada and played hockey. Played at Baylor for 2 years after coming over from Junior College. Spent both years as the starting LT. Did a solid job there, but projects inside in the NFL. Doesn’t have the athletic ability or footwork for playing OT. Looks like a natural fit at G. Watkins is a tenacious blocker. He goes to the whistle. Or the echo of the whistle. Anchors well. Able to re-set when he is initially driven back. Sinks his hips and plays with good leverage. Feet are fine for playing in a tight space (like G or C). Also has a mentality that fits well at G. Sort of a bully. Likes to find a defender and really mash on him. Uses his hands pretty well. Still raw, but seems very coachable.

Older than teams prefer, but a real good player and the kind of guy that teams love. Should go in the early 2nd round.

Watkins is a good football player.  He impressed me this year on game tape and then really jumped out at the Senior Bowl.  He’ll compete for the RG job right away in Philly.  Could also play C (not at the same time of course).

I like Watkins as a player, but he’s poor value at #23.  Danny will turn 27 during the upcoming football season.  After 5 years in the league he’ll be getting ready to turn 32.  That’s a point when most players are really declining (right Joe Banner?).

There are a couple of key counter points.  First, he hasn’t played 20 years of football.  His body isn’t beaten up.  There is plenty of tread on the tire.  Also, we’re in win now mode and Danny is mature and the kind of guy who will be ready to go from Day 1.  This isn’t some kid we have to hope can mature enough to contribute early on.  Danny is a man.  I also think he’ll be a great fit with Howard Mudd.  Howard is a self-admitted “hardass”.  Danny won’t guy crying to Reid or his agent when Howard tells him to pull his head out of his butt and get rid of the mistakes.  Danny can take tough coaching.

What about CB?  Expect a vet CB to come in via trade or FA.

Listen Up You Hosers

Posted: April 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 12 Comments »

Apparently the Eagles will be playing up in Canada against the Bills this year.  The schedule will be officially released tonight so we’ll have confirmation soon enough.  Buffalo has lost the games played in Toronto each of the last 2 years (MIA, CHI).  Of course, those weren’t exactly juggernaut Bills teams.

I expect a large contingent of Eagles fans to take over the stadium and introduce our Canadian brothers to the way a football game is supposed to be.  The last 2 years the stadium has lacked atmosphere.  That better change in 2011.

Just a heads up for those that go, if you find a mouse in a bottle of beer from the Elsinore Brewery, that is against the Canadian Criminal Code and you’re entitled to a free case.  Just go to the brewery and tell ’em that Bob and Doug sent ya.

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I was listening to the Dan Patrick show this morning.  They had a discussion about the battle for the cover of the upcoming Madden game.  It is down to Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick.  One point someone brought up was whether fans should want their favorite player to win.  There is a “Madden cover curse” that has plagued some guys in the past, mainly in the form of injuries.  One of Dan’s assistants made the joke that he’d just gotten an email from Kevin Kolb saying that Vick should absolutely win and get the cover.

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I want to pause some of the O-line discussion and save that for after the draft.  There were some good questions and comments on Monday.  That will make for a good discussion in early May.  We won’t be talking about mini-camp or UDFAs.

I will talk about the draft angle.  Mudd doesn’t require guys that are massive, but that doesn’t mean he can’t use them effectively.  Mudd needs players that can move, whether they are big or small.  Jason Peters is thick/heavy, but is agile enough to be fine in Mudd’s system.  Winston Justice is 6’5, 320.  That’s hardly a huge OT.  He’s also agile enough for Mudd’s system.  A guy like Jon Runyan might have been awkward.

On the inside, Mudd does prefer guys that are lighter.  Guards/Centers that go 330 pounds tend not to have the footwork and athleticism he likes.  I popped in some Eagles tape last night just to watch a couple of series.  Nick Cole would be a complete debacle in this system.  He has the lateral agility of a mountain.  Max Jean-Gilles is hardly nimble, but he’s at least guy a fighting chance with his new build.  He looked like a whole new guy last year, after shedding about 60 pounds.

Todd Herremans gets listed at 320, but that’s a joke.  I heard from one person a couple of years ago that Todd got down to 280 in that offseason.  He doesn’t look that light, but he’s not 320.  He’ll be fine.  McGlynn has a good build.  He’s strong enough to anchor, but isn’t so big that he can’t move and cover a small space.

The Eagles can look for interior blockers anywhere in the draft, but they don’t have to come from the first couple of rounds.  I still think Clint Boling in the 2nd round would make a lot of sense.  The Eagles can see if Will Rackley or Rodney Hudson is around in the 3rd.  A guy like Marcus Cannon would have been ideal for Juan Castillo’s system, but isn’t a good use of resources for Mudd’s system.

The Eagles can go look for a guy even later.  One consideration is that the lower the pick, the less likely that the player will challenge for playing time in 2011.  If Howard wants a starter, he probably ought to find that guy in the 2nd or 3rd.  If he wants a player to develop, he can go 4th, 5th, or even lower, depending on how he likes the G/C class.

I’ve touched on this before, but it’s worth bringing up again.  With Castillo, we focused on OTs.  We spent little time on pure C’s and G’s.  We wanted OTs, especially LTs.  They had the size, arm length, and footwork needed for Juan’s system.  The hiring of Mudd gives us the freedom to look at a pure G like Hudson (291 pounds).  We can still look at someone like Rackley who played LT, but projects to the inside in the NFL.  Rackley isn’t so big that he can’t play G or C in Mudd’s system.  He uses his hands well and has good lateral agility.  He could be a good RG in the new system.

We discussed this in the column I wrote after reading the interview with Howard, but one of the key factors is finding guys that are mentally tough and coachable.  Small school players tend to have a chip on their shoulder since they didn’t go to a football school like Penn State, Ohio State, or Michigan Iowa.  Those guys are more likely to listen to a coach and focus on fundamentals than a kid from a big school who is used to being praised.  Mudd had good success with players from mid-major and small schools.  That should make Rackley and Slippery Rock C Brandon Fusco all the more interesting to him.

Who are some mid-to-late round players that could be of interest?

Will Rackley ——- Lehigh ———– 6’3, 309 — 3rd round
Rodney Hudson — Fla St. ———— 6’2, 291 — 3rd round
Brandon Fusco —- Slippery Rock — 6’4, 302 — 4th round
David Arkin ——– Missouri State – 6’5, 300 — 5th round
Stephen Schilling — Michigan ——- 6’4, 305 — 5th round
Andrew Jackson — Fresno State — 6’4, 299 — 5th round
Caleb Schlauderaff – Utah ———— 6’4, 302 — late rounder

Those are my guesses at the kind of projections we would have on those players.  I’m sure some sites might have them rated higher or lower.  I’m trying to guess what the Eagles/Howard Mudd will think/see/want.  Fusco is the only outright Center in the group.  This is a terrible class of Centers.  I think highly of him, but otherwise I think you’re better off taking another player and moving them to the middle.  Some people feel Hudson could be a good C.

I have to admit that the more I think about Rackley as a potential RG, the more intrigued I get.  Is he worth our 2nd rounder?  Will he last to the 3rd?  Ask about other players if you like.  It is possible I’ve overlooked someone.  Do remember, that the list was guys who should be in rounds 3-7.  That’s why I didn’t bother with Pouncey, Watkins, and guys like that.  I’m also doubtful that Stefen Wisniewski makes it far into the 3rd round, if at all.

I’ve got a post half-done with some draft Q&A from the last couple of days.  I’ll finish that and post late tonight or early tomorrow.

Eagles OL Scheme Change

Posted: April 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: | 12 Comments »

I was all set to bombard you with more draft talk, but then I tuned in to listen to Eagles Live this morning and Ross Tucker came on to discuss a variety of issues.  One thing he focused on was the different blocking schemes from last year to this year.  I had a pretty good feeling about how to explain some of the changes, but Tucker offered some real good insight.

Juan Castillo used a method where the OTs used a kick-slide to get back.  This gave the DE a free run up the field for a couple of yards.  The OTs had to then engage the rusher as he closed ground.  Guys who did well in our system needed 2 things:  long arms and a big bubble.  The long arms allowed the OT to initiate contact sooner, but remain back.  The “big bubble” refers to a big butt and thighs area.  Guys that are thick in that area are able to anchor better.  When a DE hits him, he’s able to hold his ground or maybe only give a step.

The interior linemen weren’t exactly the same as this, but the basic principle to give ground and anchor was the same.

Howard Mudd believes in short pass sets.  This means that the linemen will come off the ball and engage defenders immediately or close to it.  There will be no retreat and then hold your ground.  Mudd’s system is more about lateral blocking.  Castillo’s system is more “vertical”, meaning moving N-S.  Both systems have had excellent success.  I’m not knocking what Juan did.  Just want to shed some light on the differences.

Since blockers no longer will anchor quite the same way there is no need to have guys that are as big.  Mudd can find players that are 300 pounds to play in his system.  He needs players that move well laterally and use their hands really well.  Mudd said in one interview that he teaches his guys it is okay to turn perpendicular to the LOS in some cases.  This is generally a no-no in the OL world, but Mudd let’s his guys do it, as long as they do it correctly.

It will be interesting to see how the players adapt to the new style.  I think Peters will love it.  He’d rather attack than retreat.  Same for Todd and McGlynn.  Jamaal Jackson will likely be affected the least.  He either doesn’t have a player right over him or does have a NT who is so close that he blocked the guy immediately anyway.

Winston Justice is most interesting player.  He has the physical ability to handle the new system.  One of Winston’s weaknesses is how he would let defenders initiate contact in pass pro too often.  Now Justice will be attacking more from the snap.  That should be a fit for him, but there are no guarantees.  The biggest thing is to play with confidence.  If the OT stays close to the LOS and gets beat, the DE has a free run.  Winston needs to embrace the new system and be aggressive.  If he does those things, we should be fine at RT.  If not, King Dunlap and Austin Howard will be fighting for playing time.

* * * * *

Tucker had some more interesting OL comments.  He doesn’t see the need for an early OT at all.  He is interested in seeing what Mudd can do with Dunlap and Howard.

Tucker also brought up the fact that the Eagles have guys like A.Q. Shipley and Dallas Reynolds that could be much better fits in Mudd’s system.  I think this is especially true of Shipley.  He and Mudd should work very well together.

Tucker talked about how in his mind RG is the key interior spot on O-lines.  He talked about how teams now slide protections to the left side so much that the RG is the one interior guy who single-blocks on pass plays the most.  Tucker said the Eagles should consider moving Herremans there.  He said the Steelers should move Maurkice Pouncey from C to RG.  Interesting comments, but I’m not sure I’d completely agree with the moving ideas.  I’m not a big fan of moving O-linemen around once they are established as good starters at a certain spot.

His thoughts at RG do mesh with the mess we had on the OL.  I picked on McGlynn several times during the year for helping Herremans out when Nick Cole was getting completely man-handled.  If Mike was taught to focus on his left, then he was just doing his job.  Nick could have used help, though, and I still maintain that should have been a bigger focus of the blocking schemes.

The interesting thing this year will be to see if things are smoother simply from the fact that we’ll head into the year with a lefty QB and all the training camp practices and preseason games will give us a chance to hone the schemes based on a lefty QB.  Last year we had to adjust on the fly and the results were slightly less than mega-awesome.

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Before any of you panic, draft talk will return tomorrow.  And I’ll answer some questions that built up over the weekend.  Once the draft is over and there’s still no CBA…I’ll probably have to resort to the blog version of a free-form jazz odyssey.   Someone call Derek Smalls for me.

Mudd’s Passion

Posted: April 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 21 Comments »

For those who haven’t been by recently, Dave Spadaro has posted a really good interview with new OL coach Howard Mudd.  I encourage everyone to read it.

I came away thinking that Winston Justice will either push for a Pro Bowl spot or be an ex-Eagle at the end of 2011.  Howard is tough.  He’s hard on his players.  Those that can handle it, thrive.  Those that can’t…hit the bricks, pal.  Check out this quote.

“A weak-minded player has no chance with me. This is a tough game and it is a tough world. The quarterback doesn’t care if you feel sorry for yourself. He doesn’t care. He’s on his back. That’s all he cares about,” says Mudd. “It’s not OK that he is on his back. What’s OK is to recognize that what you did was a failure, so let’s go fix it. I have a list of excuses, so I say to a player when he starts explaining what happened, ‘Just give me a number. I have the list, about 10 or 12 of them.’ Players say, ‘The back knocked me off my block,’ or, ‘I slipped,’ or, ‘I did what you told me but it didn’t work.’ All excuses. None of them are reasons.

“Eventually, if you are going to survive in this world, you can’t dance around the truth. You have to confront it and you have to be honest with yourself and if you want to excel, you have to commit yourself to that concept.

Winston has the talent to be an outstanding RT.  He showed real flashes of that in 2009.  Howard is here to get Justice back to that form, and better.  If Justice buys in, the sky is the limit.

One of the reasons I like Howard so much is that he’s not trying to re-invent the wheel.  He is a believer in fundamentals and repetition.  Football can be a pretty simple game when you really break it down.  Learn certain basic techniques and then spend time perfecting them.  You’ll never do it, but the pursuit of perfection (as Lombardi talked about) is what leads to really good things.  More from Howard:

“Uniformity is a big deal to me. We’re going to do the same things the same way every time. We’re going to do a few things and do those things extraordinarily well,” says Mudd. “I’ll live with that principle forever and ever and ever. I will tell the players this: We’re doing to do the same drills on the first day of training camp that we do on the final day of practice before the Super Bowl. We’re going to hit the same sled. We’re going to do the same footwork and I’m going to make you do it right. My job is to make them do it right. That’s the way the world is. You can either embrace it or not embrace it. But that’s the way we’re going to do things around here, because I know what works.”

We all want to see better OL play in 2011.  I think the addition of Howard Mudd will have a big impact on the guys.  He’s not inheriting chopped liver.  Jason Peters is a Pro Bowl player.  Todd Herremans has shown flashes of that kind of ability.  Justice has big time potential.  Jamaal Jackson at C and Mike McGlynn at RG are more uncertain.  JamJax can be a good C if he just returns to form after a long layoff.  RG is the mystery position.  I”m assuming McGlynn is the guy there, but don’t know that for a fact.  Howard is likely to get a G pretty early in the draft to work with.  He’ll also have Max Jean-Gilles.  Hopefully he can find a solid starter out of that group.

I came away really fired up after reading what Mudd had to say.  He’s not a jerk, but is hard on his players because he wants them to be at their best.  Tough love, I guess you’d say.  Players need to be pushed.  Graig Nettles (star 3B for the Yankees in the ’78 World Series) said the key to being a coach/manager is figuring out which guys to kick in the ass and which ones to kiss on the ass.  I get the feeling that Howard very much understands that principle.  Ted Daisher rubbed a lot of guys the wrong way because he pushed, but never praised.  Sean McDermott, to a lesser extent, had a similar issue.  Players have to understand you’re being hard on them for a reason.  If not, they think you’re a jerk and tune you out.

Now all we need is the resumption of football so Howard can actually get a chance to interact with his new players and “coach ’em up”.

p.s.   anybody get the title reference?