Defenders The Eagles Might Target

Posted: April 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 8 Comments »

I was scouring some old information recently when I stumbled upon an interesting nugget.  We all know that Juan Castillo has mentioned liking the Bears style of defense a few times.  That defense was assembled and run by Lovie Smith.  Prior to being the head coach in Chicago, Smith was the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams.  One of the scouts who helped find players for Smith was a guy named Ryan Grigson.  You may recognize that name since he is currently the Eagles Director of Player Personnel.

The nugget I found was a quote from Grigson.

Ryan Grigson, an Eagles scout, talked about finding players for Lovie Smith when they worked together. He said Lovie wanted two key things…guys who could run and guys who created turnovers.

Now Grigson is charged with finding the kind of defensive players that Castillo wants.  Since Castillo likes the Bears style of play you would think that the focus on defense would be guys that can run and guys that create turnovers.

I’m sure some people will question whether this isn’t true for all teams.  It is in a vague way.  However, teams have specific types of players they focus on.  Bill Parcells is enamored with size.  Al Davis is enamored with speed.  The Steelers seem to go for ultra-competitive, grinder type players.  The Cardinals have loaded up on versatile guys in recent years, as they try to play both the 3-4 and 4-3.  We’ll find out for sure what Castillo is looking for once the draft gets here, but I’m pretty sure Grigson’s comment nailed the situation on the head.

When we talk about “guys that can run” that doesn’t mean just looking at the top 40 times.  Running in football is a skill.  You want guys that are fast, but who also play fast.  They need to locate the ball quickly.  The prospects must have good motors and be outstanding pursuit players.  Cal LB Mike Mohammed ran a 4.7 at the Combine.  That’s a solid time for a guy that goes 239 pounds, but he’s not a great pursuit player.  Mike doesn’t lack effort.  He just always seemed to be a step away from making the tackle on plays to the outside.  That will get worse in the NFL, not better.

UConn LB Lawrence Wilson only ran 4.75 at the Combine, but put on the tape and you’ll see a guy that pursues well.  He looks good on the move and covers a lot of ground.  The 40 times shows straight-line speed, but doesn’t factor in how quickly a player finds the ball or takes off in pursuit.  Castillo will want fast players, but they must also be relentless in chasing plays down.  That’s all part of finding “guys that can run”.

As for wanting guys that create turnovers, that is pretty much what it sounds like.  Some players have a knack for knocking the ball loose or recovering fumbles or picking off passes.  There is definitely luck involved, especially with recovering fumbles.  There is skill involved in creating fumbles and coming up with interceptions.

Ryan Kerrigan forced 14 fumbles at Purdue, an amazing total.  He got to the QB a lot (33.5 sacks), but he also knew to try and knock the ball away in the process.  The sack wasn’t enough.  He focused on going for the ball.  Da’Quan Bowers had 19.5 career sacks.  He had 1 FF.  Bowers focused on getting the QB down.  That’s good, but not if you’re in a defense that stresses turnovers.  Kerrigan didn’t just go for the ball, he got it.  That’s a good skill that should carry over to the NFL.  Bowers can be taught, but we don’t know whether he’ll be good at it or not.

Some back seven players have a knack for FFs.  Dawk has 35 in his career.  That is an incredible amount for a Safety.  The great Ronnie Lott only had 16 in his career and he’s arguably the best impact hitter of the last 30 years.  Joe Lefeged, the SS from Rutgers, had 9 in his career.  That’s the highest total by a DB in college right now.  Washington LB Mason Foster has 8.  He is a forceful hitter that will jar the ball loose.

Interceptions are a tough subject.  It takes good hands and ball skills to come up with a big total.  Some guys get gift INTs when a pass rusher hits the QB and the ball is a wounded duck.  INTs also mean passes are being thrown at you, which isn’t a good thing for a CB.  Some CBs play in a system where they face the QB more and that helps their INT total.  Other guys are in press-man coverage and chasing players all over the field.  At the end of the day you still get impressed with DBs who come up with picks.  INTs are game changers in the NFL, much more than fumbles.

Here are some turnover machines that can also run and might be of interest to Castillo:

DE Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue – 14 FFs, 1 INT
LB Von Miller – Texas A&M – 10 FFs, 1 INT
DT Stephen Paea – Oregon St. – 9 FFs
DE Robert Quinn – UNC – 8 FFs
SS Joe Lefeged – Rutgers – 8 FFs, 2 INTs
DE Sam Acho – Texas – had 5 FFs this year

S Brian Lainhart – Kent State – 17 INTs, 8 FFs
S Jeremy Kellem – MTSU – 10 INTs, 7 FFs
S DeAndre McDaniel – Clemson – 15 INTs, 4 FFs
S Rahim Moore – UCLA – 14 INTs
S Mana Silva – Hawaii – 14 INTs (8 this year)
S Tyler Sash – Iowa – 13 INTs, 3 FFs
S Deunta Williams – UNC – 12 INTs, 3 FFs

CB Brandyn Thompson – Boise State – 13 INTs, 1 FF
CB Davon House – New Mexico State – 11 INTs, 1 FF
CB Rashad Carmichael – Va Tech – 10 INTs in the last 2 years
CB Johnny Patrick – Louisville – new scheme this year led to 5 INTs, 1 FF

LB Lawrence Wilson – UConn – 5 INTs, 6 FFs
LB Adrian Moten – Maryland – 6 INTs, 5 FFs
LB Ross Homan – Ohio State – 7 INTs, 3 FFs
LB Nate Irving – NC State – 4 INTs, 6 FFs   (speed is an issue)
LB Mason Foster – Washington – 4 INTs, 8 FFs  (speed is an issue)
LB Mike Mohamed – Cal – 7 INTs, 4 FFs  (speed is an issue)
LB Nick Bellore – Central Mich – 5 INTs, 5 FFs (speed is an issue)

Before anyone starts throwing 40 times at me in response to “speed is an issue”, I’m talking about how they show up on tape.  The 4 LBs mentioned are better downhill than side to side.  Running a decent 40 doesn’t automatically give them good range.

Now, just because these players have come up with a lot of turnovers doesn’t mean that they are good NFL prospects.  Some of them won’t grade out well overall.  This list is simply a helpful tool in identifying players who have been involved with lots of turnovers in college.  I do think Castillo will target 2 or 3 guys on the list.  We already know that the Eagles have talked to Paea, Homan, Wilson, Patrick, and Moore.  We don’t know if the meetings went well.  I guess we’ll find that out in 2 1/2 weeks.

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I will be answering questions about the mock draft in a post later tonight or early tomorrow.