Is There Hope For Brodrick Bunkley?

Posted: April 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 14 Comments »
Bunk and the Eagles defense prepare to let Jahvid Best run wild.

Bunk and the Eagles defense prepare to let Jahvid Best run wild.

 

I was on the phone with a friend the other day and we started talking about Brodrick Bunkley.  In some ways, he is the key player for the DTs.  Based on 2010 it is easy to forget where he came from.

Bunkley was the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft.  He was a terrific prospect.  Very few people expected him to last to pick 14.  Many thought the Bills might take him at #8.  Instead, they went for S Donte Whitner.  Bunkley had okay size, but was incredibly strong.  He ran well and was athletic.  His Senior season at FSU was impressive.  He had 25 TFLs (might have led the nation).  Bunk didn’t pile up these numbers against Duke and The Citadel.  His best play was down the stretch in big games.  There wasn’t much not to like.  Bunkley wasn’t a pick that was pushed for by a scout or coach.  The whole organization wanted this guy.  He was someone that much of the league coveted.  4-3 teams all had to love Bunk.  He was strong enough to 2-gap.  He was athletic enough to play 1-gap.  3-4 teams could look at him as a DE.  Heck, some could consider him as a NT with his strength and power.

In his time as an Eagle Bunkley hasn’t lived up to his draft expectations.  He started for 3 years (plus the early part of 2010).  He played well in 2007 and 2008.  He was an above average DT in those years.  He didn’t make a lot of plays, but some of that is not his fault.  Bunk came here at a time when we moved to the 2-gap system in our base defense.  That limited his chances to attack upfield.  He had limited chances to rush on passing downs because also at that time Jim Johnson had moved to playing DEs on the inside.  That didn’t happen in the past.  Corey Simon got to play on 3rd down.  Jim first mentioned the possibility of using DEs on the inside when discussing the signing of Darren Howard in March of 2006.  I don’t recall us doing it that year, but we moved to it heavily in the 2007 season.  It was all we did from 2008-10.

What fascinates me most about Bunk’s situation is that he was a good player with Jim Johnson as his defensive coordinator and Pete Jenkins as his positional coach.  Bunk then regressed under Sean McDermott and Rory Segrest.  They are gone.  Juan Castillo has the right personality to get Bunk back on track.  Juan is fiery and energetic and a good motivator.  Jim Washburn is the best DL coach in the NFL.  He should be a major improvement over Segrest and that has to help Bunk.

The Eagles have had a mixed relationship with Bunkley over the years.  He held out and missed valuable TC time as a rookie.  That made the 2006 season basically a waste.  Bunk then played well for 2 years.  The rumors I’ve heard is that the Eagles approached him about an extension, but that Bunk wanted elite DT money.  He wasn’t playing at that level so the Eagles backed off the contract talks.  Obviously the last 2 years have done nothing to help Bunk’s case.   The team has been frustrated with him at times throughout his career because his play doesn’t always match his potential.

Right now Bunk is a mystery to us and the Eagles.  That doesn’t mean he’s someone to give up on.  You can’t ignore what he did in 2007 and 2008.  You also have to look at the position he plays and the erratic nature of it.  Albert Haynesworth was the most dominant defensive player in the NFL in 2007 and 2008.  He left the Titans for the Skins as a FA.  He was used differently by the Skins and wasn’t nearly the same player.  This past year they moved to the 3-4 and Big Al was a role player.  He isn’t any less talented.  Put on the WAS/CHI game.  That was the best performance by a DT all year.  Al was awesome in that game.  He needs to be in the right system.

DTs can take time to develop.  Big Al was nothing special in his first 5 years.  He totaled only 9.5 sacks and wasn’t dominant in any way (other than leading the league in face stomps).   The light went on in year 6 and he was great for the next 2 seasons.  Pat Williams was a backup for 4 seasons before he became a starter.  It then took him a couple more years until he became an impact starter.  Jay Ratliff didn’t really emerge until his 4th year in the league.

Bunk might fall flat on his face in 2011 and prove to be a guy who just lost it somewhere along the way.  He could also thrive in the new system and turn his career completely around.  He still has the talent to be a good starting DT.  And I’m curious as heck to see how he responds to playing in an attacking scheme for the first time since college.  Bunkley’s career can go in a number of directions.   I don’t trust him enough to count on a certain level of performance, but it won’t shock me if he plays really well this year.  Bunk still has the highest ceiling of any of our DTs.  If he thrives in the new system, that makes life a lot easier for the coaches and rest of the defense.  It makes things very complicated for Howie Roseman and Joe Banner, but that’s a good problem to have.

* * * * *

More on Quintin Mikell.  Let’s remember what we’re saying.  I expect him to leave because someone overpays him.  The Eagles aren’t going to match a hefty offer to Q.  They didn’t do it for Dawk.  I’m not saying the numbers would be the same, but the principle would.  Joe Banner has a piece of paper in his office that shows what the Eagles feel Mikell is worth in terms of salary.  If we can keep him for that figure, great.  If not, he’s gone.

The Eagles can have this attitude for a couple of reasons.  First, they liked what they saw from Kurt Coleman last year.  He showed that he can start and be a contributor.  Ideally, you’d like to get him another year or two to learn the ropes before making him a starter.  Kurt isn’t physically special.  He needs to know what is going on to be at his best.  Some young guys soak up the game quickly.  Others take time.

Also, the Eagles have a couple of veteran players targeted in FA.  We don’t know when/how this will happen, but at some point it is almost a certainty that we’ll have some kind of offseason.  The Eagles can add a player they really like or just someone to help get us through 2011.  That isn’t ideal, but neither is giving Quintin Mikell a big deal.  His leadership would be missed, but I think Nate Allen is ready to make a big step forward in that area.

* * * * *

Someone asked about Jamar Chaney and whether we should be concerned since his stellar play occurred late in the year when he had fresh legs and other players were worn down.  This is a good point and possible concern.

That said, I don’t think the fresh legs made him look substantially better than he would have been.  Jamar played in all games but the season opener.  He was a regular on Special Teams.  He got to play on defense in blowouts over JAX and WAS.  It wasn’t as if he joined the team at midseason and had a couple of extra months of total rest.  He certainly was in better shape than others because of his limited snaps, but even after he played for a few weeks Chaney continued to be highly active and productive.

The only way we’ll know for sure is when he only posts 5 tackles in the entire month of November.  Or if he has to borrow House’s cane to get around after games.


Q & A

Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 13 Comments »
Q at the ready

Quintin Mikell is stuck in the CBA wilderness. What's his future?

 

There was a good discussion here yesterday about Quintin Mikell based on this Philly Sports Daily article (very good read).  Q wants to stay an Eagle, but money becomes the big issue.  Q isn’t a guy that has had big contracts in the past.  He came in as a UDFA and then got a second deal, but it wasn’t big starter money.  Q isn’t a broke bum like most of us, but he’s not necessarily set for life.  The contract he’s about to sign is really important for his future.

The Eagles I’m sure would love to keep him for a couple of years at a reasonable salary.  I don’t know if that is possible.  There is a lack of good Safeties in the NFL right now.  The Jaguars are at every Pro Day where a Safety is working out.  They’re desperate and they’re not alone.  If one of these teams is close to being a contender they might overpay for Q’s services with a 3 or 4 year deal at a good rate.  If Q gets that offer, he has to take it.  Sam will have a better idea of numbers than me, but Q would be crazy to turn down a signing bonus of a few million dollars.  The Eagles just aren’t going to offer him that kind of money.

Now, if the other 31 teams decide that Q isn’t worth breaking the bank for, maybe the Eagles have a shot.  He does like it here.  He likes the team and organization.  Q genuinely wants to stay.  It would be great if they could work something out, but I’m not holding my breath.

* Someone asked who I would project as the starting DTs as of now.  I tend to think Bunk and Patt will get the first look because of seniority.  I really do believe it will be somewhat of an open tryout to find the best pairing.  And I’m as curious as anyone as to who will play which role.  Bunk and Patt each have the strength to play NT.  Each guy was a disruptive penetrator in college when given a chance in that role.  Laws could be a terrific UT.  I think Dixon is more of a NT, but he’s deceptively quick off the ball.  Washburn has a lot of options.

* Someone brought up a MTC post where Sheil Kapadia talked about how good Asante and Joselio’s coverage numbers were last year.  I want to talk about that in a separate post.  That’s more of a lengthy topic to get into.

* Should the Eagles move up for CB Prince Amukamara?  Tough question.  I need to write something out comparing and contrasting the top few CB prospects.  Prince is a very good prospect and I’d love the Eagles to get him, but is he worth moving up for?  That’s the key issue.  I think the bizarre offseason means we need to be careful about trading picks to move up.  I’d go up a few spots, but not from 23 to 10 or something like that.

* Will the wide nine system waste Trent Cole‘s ability as a run defender?  No, but it won’t take full advantage of it either.  Trent has developed into an outstanding run defender.  He makes plays when the ball comes at him or goes the other way.  He does this with leverage, instincts, and a great motor.  Flying up the field after the QB will get him out of position to be as impactful, but Trent still has the instincts and motor to find the ball and get in pursuit quickly.  Real good question.

* Trading Kolb for other players?  What about Chris Gamble?  I think the Eagles would be willing to deal Kolb for the right player.  It would have to be a Pro Bowl type player, though.  If the Vikings offered Chad Greenway (currently a franchise tag recipient) for Kolb, that would be pretty tempting.  We’d likely also get a mid-round pick in the 2012 draft.  I’m sure the Eagles have a few players around the league they’d be willing to discuss.  It wouldn’t be many.  There is no way Chris Gamble would be one.  Solid player, but not someone you trade a QB for, unless a high pick in 2012 comes along with him.

* How much input do positional coaches have in the draft?  It depends on the team.  Bengals coaches have a lot since they have the smallest scouting department in the league.  Those coaches go to Pro Days and workouts all offseason.  Eagles assistants only go to select workouts.  Scouts do the rest.

Assistant coaches get with the scouting department to let them know what kind of players they are looking for.  The scouts go find those players and bring back lists/info/video for the coaches to watch.  The coaches then have input as to who they like and who they don’t.  The overall draft board is shaped by a combination of what the scouts and coaches think.  There is a real group effort to doing a good job of scouting and drafting.  The scouts need to know what to look for and the assistants have to trust the scouts who have studied the players for 6 to 9 months.  It is detrimental to a team when an assistant sees a guy having a great or terrible Senior Bowl and then lets that be his opinion.  Game tape is the real key.  If the coaches and scouts don’t agree on prospects, more study is done.

You can bet Mudd and Washburn spent a day or two meeting with the personnel guys to explain what kind of players they are looking for.

* NT size. Is it better for the NT to be big in the new system?  Not necessarily.  We’re not looking for the DT to eat up blocks.  We want him to get behind the blockers.  Small guys can use pad level and a quick burst to get by and under blockers and be disruptive.  Big guys can overpower blocks.  The trick is to find someone that plays to his size/skill set.  Don’t get a big DT who thinks he’s Dwight Freeney.  Don’t get a small guy who thinks he’s Haloti Ngata.


Is Kurt Coleman Starter Material?

Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 12 Comments »

Kurt Coleman on the attack

Quintin Mikell has been the starting SS for the last 3 1/2 years.  Mikell has played well in that period and the Eagles would probably love to have him back for another year, maybe two.  The problem is that Mikell is an aging player.  He will seek a 3 or 4 year deal and good payday.  There is a lack of good Safeties in the NFL right now so some team will likely give him the contract he desires.  Mikell has to go to the highest bidder.  He isn’t a guy that has had a couple of big paydays already.  He was a UDFA that spent several years as a role player.  This is his one chance for a big contract (relatively speaking).

Assuming Mikell leaves, Kurt Coleman becomes the in-house favorite for the SS job.   The question is whether he’s good enough to start or if he’s ideally a role player.  I have been a Kurt Coleman fan since watching him prior to last year’s draft.  He then impressed me in the preseason games.  I felt the Eagles had found a good developmental prospect.

Coleman started a midseason game against the Skins in place of Nate Allen.  Kurt had 4 solo tackles and came up with his first NFL pick.  The INT wasn’t a lucky play.  He jumped a route and made a nice catch.  Coleman was solid in that game.  He then took over for Allen late in the year when Nate suffered a season-ending injury.  That only meant one start, vs MIN.  Coleman had 7 solo tackles and played well for most of the game.  He made one huge mistake and lost contain on a run play.  Adrian Peterson got outside and delivered a big play.  Coleman started in the Wildcard game and had 6 solo tackles.

After seeing his rookie year, I felt like Coleman had showed that he has starting ability.  He has solid man cover skills.  He is effective in zones.  Kurt can hit and tackle.  He plays smart.  Although he lacks ideal size, he is tough and plays bigger than he is.

While I like him as a future starter, I think that ideally Coleman would be a backup for now.  He has good instincts, but a player who lacks ideal size/speed might benefit from having a couple of years to learn the pro game.  Kurt has to be mentally sharp.  He has to anticipate plays.  The best way to do this is by combining instincts and experience.  Kurt needs to know his scheme inside-out and the opposing offense almost as well.  It is hard for a 2nd year player to do that.

I think Coleman can be an effective starter in 2010, but I anticipate the Eagles looking around for a SS in free agency (when/if that happens).  They aren’t going to break the bank on a guy like Eric Weddle, but look for a young starter that has good potential.  We know the Eagles love their bargains.  Some work, some don’t, but the Eagles love to roll the dice on ascending players.

Think of Coleman as the safety net at SS.  He can get the job done, but he’s not likely to be the top choice.  That’s probably fine with Kurt.  He slid all the way to the 7th round last year and had to prove to people he could play in the NFL.  He did just that and now has to prove that he is meant to be a starter.  I think he’ll play well when he does get on the field.  After all, you know the old saying, “Hell hath no fury like a scorned Safety”.

* * * * *

My newest PE.com column is about how much I’m missing free agency.  Early March is normally one of my favorite times of the year because of all the NFL activity.  Now all I’m getting is legal briefs and court updates.  C’mon NFL/NFLPA…give me my offseason!