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.


Big Red Talks About the Eagles Defense

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments »

PE.com has a 3-part video series between Dave Spadaro and Andy Reid.  I encourage you to watch it, if you haven’t already.  A lot of the discussion is simple, obvious stuff (coaches rarely open up), but Dave did get some good nuggets from Andy. The most helpful info involved our “new” defense.

Andy reiterated that the defense will be the same basic ideas that have been here during his tenure. One thing I don’t think enough people appreciate is that things changed over the years, under both JJ and Sean McDermott. You take a basic approach and tweak it based on new personnel, changes in rules, or schematic shifts in the game. Think about some examples:

* Do you think JJ’s playbook had a section for a FS like Brian Dawkins prior to his hiring by the Eagles? Jim saw Dawk’s potential and figured out a variety of ways to use him.
* Remember 2006? JJ decided to mix things up and use Dawk like a LB in the Nickel/Dime looks. That lasted half the year (or less).
* We played our DTs in a 1-gap style for most of JJ’s tenure. He switched after the arrival of DL coach Pete Jenkins.
* We used to have pass rushing DTs. The arrival of Darren Howard led us to start mixing in DEs on the inside. Eventually both DTs on passing downs became DEs.
* With Carlos Emmons at SAM we used him to shut down TEs. Other years JJ mixed up his coverages. In 2008 he used the WLB and SS to split the job.
* With Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, and Al Harris we played a ton of physical, press coverage. That changed as the rules changed in 2004 and as our personnel changed.

So what will happen in 2011? We’re going back to the 1-gap, attacking scheme we used to run, with some adjustments. The front is referred to as the “Wide Nine” because the DEs will line up out wide (the nine technique). Quick aside, let’s talk about alignment/terminology.

0 technique – NT in the 3-4
1 technique – NT in the 4-3, shaded to the outside of the C
3 technique – DT in the 4-3, lines up on the outside eye of the G (position that Warren Sapp made famous)
5 technique – DE in the 3-4, lines up on the outside eye of the T

4-3 DEs line up in a variety of places. In Jim Washburn’s scheme the DEs are out wide, outside of the TE even. This is the 9 technique. Keep in mind that this is a base look. There are times when the DEs move around. Washburn will use under fronts where the line slides away from the TE. This has a DE line up right over the OT. Sometimes the DE will line up over the OT to help set up a stunt. The DE goes inside and the DT loops around him.

Our DTs will basically line up in the same place as last year (and the past), but they will fire off the ball and attack. As Reid said in the interview, the goal is for the DL to play on the other side of the LOS.

LB play is going to change. Everyone sick of hearing about “downhill LBs” can rejoice. We now will have guys doing more read and react. Some people will be put off by that phrase since it sounds passive. Don’t be. Previously our LBs attacked up the field. Think of all the times we saw a guy attacking a FB on run plays. The LBs will now read the play at the snap. They have a second or so to diagnose and find the ball, then go get it.

Jamar Chaney should thrive in this system. He runs very well and has good instincts. Stewart Bradley runs well for a big MLB. He should be okay. The key for him will be finding the ball without taking false steps and getting out of position. Moise Fokou is a guy I’ll need to watch tape on. He can run, but tends to be more of a bull in a china shop. Can he sit back, read the play, and then go to the ball? That’s different than being up on the line and making contact right at the snap.

Reid didn’t go into the secondary. I think we’ll be looking at a mixture of zone and man based on how our personnel shakes out and who we’re playing that day.

Juan Castillo mentioned the Bears defense a few times after getting the DC job. Some people take that as him wanting the Tampa 2. That’s not what I took from him. He was focusing on effort and how hard they play. I’ve gotten into football discussions with friends and I always tell people that the most fascinating thing for me in terms of defense is how hard the Bears play. This defense has played with max effort for 5 plus years. How do you do that? At some point players tend to tune out a coach.

The man getting the credit now is Rod Marinelli, but Lovie Smith had the Bears playing this way when Rod was going 0-16 up in Detroit. Lovie isn’t a rah-rah guy. He’s a quiet, professional leader. Yet, he somehow gets his guys to play harder on defense than any other team in the league. Some of you may think all of this is hyperbole, but I’ve always felt there is a noticeable difference in the energy the Bears bring to the field. I was happy to hear Castillo talk about the Bears because that means I’m not the only one who notices it.

Effort, attitude, and hustle are great, but you must have talent. The Bears have signature players like Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher. The Eagles have some good pieces in place, but there are some holes to fill. I promise you the Eagles will add a CB, either in FA or the draft. Beyond that, I guarantee nothing. We have to see who is available and how the whole CBA mess works out.

Back to Castillo for a minute. He spent a lot of time discussing blitzes with JJ over the years. I think Juan will keep the blitz very much a part of our scheme. His time running the OL should have made it clear to him how disruptive and effective the blitz can be when done right. Juan still probably still has nightmares about Antoine Winfield. I know Michael Vick and I do.

Castillo and Washburn are working on the playbook as we speak. They are combining their ideas with JJ’s basics, maybe even a thing or two from Sean. The one section where they better get completely rid of McDermott’s ideas is the Red Zone. We were awful there in 2010. Way too passive. Washburn and the Titans were very good in the Red Zone last year so hopefully some of his ideas will help us. There’s only one way to go…up. I mean, how much more awful could our Red Zone defense be? The answer is none…none more awful (right Nigel?).

I’m actually excited to see how the defense looks. We were all shocked to find out Juan Castillo got the DC job. Now that the shock of that has subsided I’m starting to like some of his ideas. We still don’t know if he can run a defense, but I do like what I’m hearing. And I’m thrilled with Washburn coaching the D-line and bringing his ideas over from Tennessee. The whole 2-gap DT thing just wasn’t my cup of tea. I want my linemen firing off the ball and being disruptive.

As I said, I like what I’m hearing. The real proof will be in the pudding, though. We’ve got to see how all of this works in games and through the course of a season. All Juan has to do is live up to the level set forth by Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Wade Phillips, Jeff Fisher, Bud Carson, and Jim Johnson. What could go wrong?