Flavor of the Month Syndrome

Posted: June 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 38 Comments »

Every year.  Every team.  Every sport.  There is always a new guy who gets people excited.  When the new guy looks good and gets everyone excited, he is the flavor of the month.  We compare him to past players or stars on other teams.  We get excited about his potential.

So what happens?  Some of these guys pan out.  Others don’t.

I hope my post yesterday on Damaris Johnson was even-handed enough to serve a good purpose.  I wasn’t trying to build him up to be our next great player.  Johnson is generating a lot of interest among reporters and fans.  I think Johnson is  subject that needed to be discussed.

Talking about guys like him is tricky.  What is hype vs what is reality?  Let’s start with facts.  Johnson was highly productive in college.  Johnson is a gifted athlete.  Johnson is doing a very good job in the OTAs.  Those points are not up for debate.

The buzz on Johnson has come from his performance.  He’s earned the buzz, so to speak.  The Eagles like what they see.  Reporters going to the OTAs have been very impressed.  This isn’t pure hype or speculation.  There is something to like.

Putting that into context is the tricky part.  Too many people make the leap from “good showing in the OTAs” to “he’s a good NFL player”.  No, that is not the case.  He might become a good NFL player, but right now he is completely unproven.

I made sure to get this point into my post yesterday.

We still don’t know if Damaris is even going to make the team, let alone dress for games or contribute.  He is off to a good start.  The real test is to see how he does when players can hit him.  Johnson must show that he can handle the tough, physical nature of the NFL.

There is nothing wrong with getting excited about players that shine in OTAs, TC, or other practice settings.  Just don’t make too much of it.  Right now Wes Welker is probably the best slot receiver in the NFL.  Comparing a guy like Johnson to him is silly.  We don’t even know if Johnson is the best slot receiver on the Eagles.  Comparing him to the best in the league is a major stretch.

Be excited that there is a young receiver that is doing well.  Enjoy the good pub he’s getting.  Just let him take baby steps before we get him ready for Canton.  Let’s see Johnson at Lehigh, in preseason games, and if he makes the roster and earns reps…in a real game.  Then we’ll start to get a feel for what he can truly do.

* * * * *

It is important to always understand what a player/team is doing.  Back in 1996 there was a guy named Devin Wyman who played for the Pats.  He was a rookie from Kentucky State.  Wyman was huge.  Watching him in preseason games was crazy.  He just dominated.  He overpowered blockers.  I knew I was seeing something special.

Wyman played in 15 NFL games and had 1 sack.

Preseason games are tricky.  You have to see who a player is facing.  Wyman was dominating 2nd and 3rd string guys.  When he got into real games and went up against starters, things changed totally.  Wyman was no longer physically dominant.  He now needed to use moves and play with good technique.  Wyman didn’t have these skills and never developed them.

Remember Colt Brennan?  He was sensational in the preseason.  He posted gaudy numbers.  He was facing bad competition and was able to exploit that.  When he faced better players (DBs that could cover and DL that could rush), Brennan was exposed.  He was in over his head.

Steve Spurrier’s offense dominated in his 2 preseasons of NFL action.  Why?  He ran plays with a purpose while the defenses he faced had not gameplanned or prepared for his stuff.  The regular season rolled along and Spurrier’s aerial assault took on a different meaning.  His offense was an assault on the eyes of Skins fans.

A good showing by a team or player can be very deceiving.  Always try to understand the context of what you’re seeing so you can understand it and more accurately judge it.

* * * * *

The NFL is a man’s league.  You have to be able to play against men.  High school and college football are games played by boys.  That is a fun time.  The NFL is business.  That’s how men put food on the table.  If you want an NFL job, you better be willing to fight for it.

We can be dismissive of Joselio Hanson and Chad Hall.  “Those guys are slow.  Get ’em outta there.”  There is some truth to that.  But Joselio and Chad aren’t going without a fight.

Both guys are scrappers that had to battle the odds to even get in the league.  Neither guy will go quietly into that good night.  They might lose jobs to Brandon Boykin and Damaris Johnson, but Hall and MmmBop will make the kids earn those roles.

That’s the attitude veterans must have.  I’m reminded of a line from the movie Taps.  Cadet Major Moreland watches a TV broadcast where the reporter says that the school’s proprietors have ordered it closed.  Major Moreland then turns to his cadets and says “Now as I see it, we are the proprietors.”  Awesomeness ensues.

Hanson must see himself as the Nickel corner.  Hall must see himself as the WR/RB/RS.  I think both guys do just that.  They might end up losing their jobs, but it won’t be due to lack of effort or attitude.  They’ll make the hot shot kids beat them out.

* * * * *

I read an OTA report at CSN Philly and stumbled on something I’d either forgotten or not known at all…Antonio Dixon not only had the triceps injury, but he also had surgery to remove a herniated disk.  It isn’t a huge deal, but I was surprised to see it.  Dixon is now healthy and is in a crucial season.  He’s a free agent next year so how he plays will send him in one of two directions.  I’m hoping for up/good.

* * * * *

Les Bowen is no longer content with being a good writer or a wise man with skinny arms.  He now wants to conquer the video world.  He did an OTA report on camera.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it 3.5 bags of Funyuns.  Check it out.

Les then did a story on my son, WLB Brian Rolle.  2012 is a big year for Brian.  The LB corps has been significantly upgraded.  Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans are not expected to be just starters.  They’re expected to be good players.

Rolle had a good rookie year.  There were ups and downs to be sure.  He must improve if he wants to keep his job and to become an outright good LB.  He’s no longer a rookie so the bar is raised.  There are no excuses this year (lockout, rookie season, new scheme, confused coaches, LB shuffle, etc.).

Rolle either plays well or he doesn’t.

Some people aren’t impressed by him.  They see a try-hard guy with limited upside.  They see a small LB.  That’s not an unreasonable way to look at things.

I see a guy who can be a good starting LB.  Rolle might be small, but he doesn’t play small.  He must get better at taking on blockers, but he’s at least willing to do it.  That’s half the battle.

Rolle can be a playmaker.  Last year he had 5 TFLs, 1 FF, 1 FR (TD), and a sack.  Rolle has some pop when he hits and has good closing speed.  He’s athletic enough to cover well, but was very inconsistent in that department last year.  I hope that all the practices this spring and summer will help him to have a better understanding of what he’s doing and how to do it.

If Rolle loses his job and has to become a backup and STer, that’s not a bad thing.  He was a late pick so that would be what was expected of him.  That said, Rolle has had a taste of being a starter and I’m sure losing that job would just kill him.  Expect Brian to do everything he can to stay on the field.

And I’ll be at home making some delicious chocolate pudding so we can celebrate all his mega-awesome plays together.  I’ll tell him stories of the greatness of Mike Labinjo.  Just your typical All-American family.

* * * * *

NFL Gimpy posted his MAQB column.  He decided to offer up a solution for the playoff system in college football.  Gimp also talks about paying players and why Justin Blackmon is an idiot.


38 Comments on “Flavor of the Month Syndrome”

  1. 1 rage114 said at 1:03 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    I think Rolle earned the chance to start. I also think that Ryans will have such a positive impact on the LB corp that his presence and experience will help hide some of the deficiencies in Rolle’s game.

    However, I hope my judgement of Rolle isn’t clouded because he was the best of a bad bunch of players last year. Many-a-offseason there were discussions of “If only the Eagles had a WILL LB”. From Adams to Sims to Simoneau to McCoy, the WILL position was always looked to be the Achilles Heel.

    Is he better than these guys?

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 2:52 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    “Is he better” is the wrong question. Can he be better? That’s what we have to hope for.

    I think Rolle can be better than Adams and McCoy. He’s already shown better instincts than Sims. Ernie is durable and productive. We have to wait and see if Rolle can match him there.

    Simoneau gets too much grief from Eagles fans. He wasn’t anything special, but was better than he gets credit for. The guy was NFC Def. Player of the Month once. That was at MLB, though.

    I don’t know what Rolle’s ceiling is. I don’t think of him as ever being a star. I do hope he could be a solid starter…someone that does his job all game long and makes the occasional play. Hunter Hillenmeyer filled that role as SAM of the Bears. Briggs and Brian were the stars. Hunter just did his job. Let’s hope Kendricks and DeMeco can be the stars here and Rolle can just do his job.

  3. 3 austinfan said at 1:17 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    You have to put each level of play in perspective:

    OTAs is where you weed out the non-athletes (if he’s slow in shorts . . . ), the stone hands (if you can’t catch with no one hitting you . . . ), the brain dead (if we have to explain his role on this play a half-dozen times I’m gonna throttle him).

    The first couple weeks of training camp you see if they look the same in pads as they did in shorts. You’re also trying to push them (though that’s become harder, which is why the pads moved to the afternoon, AR wants to make them work in heat, get them exhausted, see who still goes 100%, want a clue on who’ll play hard in the 4th Q or game 12 against an underdog).

    The first couple exhibition games you’re looking for “it.” Flash something, if you’re playing inferior talent you should dominate them. If they flash a lot, you try to rotate them in against starters in the 3rd game and see if they’re overmatched.

    The fourth exhibition game (the first 3 Qs) reveals if they’re legitimate, other teams have some film on them (they at least know your number), you’re going against talent that’s at least marginally NFL caliber (because they’re also fighting for roster spots) and you’re playing for an extended period (anyone can look great for two series before the legs get tired).

    Rolle tried too hard last year and made rookie mistakes, went for big hits and didn’t wrap up, overran plays, blew assignments – but we’re talking a college MLB moving to pro WLB with no OTAs. What he did show was the explosiveness to make plays, his combine 4.54 wasn’t imaginary, he’s got good athleticism and good leverage. Now I don’t buy 240 lbs, I think he’d slow down too much at that weight to be effective, but 235 lbs is probably credible. At that size, at 5’10, he’s more than strong enough. However, his instincts have to improve, he can’t let blockers get to him first b/c of his height and arms, he wants to be the one to initiate contact. His biggest problem is Chaney is also probably best suited to WLB, and Chaney has similar speed but at bit more size – however, Rolle seems to have a better idea what he’s doing out there, especially in coverage, so my money is on Tommy’s “little ball of hate.”

  4. 4 TommyLawlor said at 2:45 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    I also doubt he’s 240. 235 sounds right to me as well.

    Mostly agree on the OTAs/PS game info. The 4th PS game can be tricky, though. We’ve seen guys play well there and then never pan out. That game is the way some guys make the team, but I don’t agree that it shows them to be “legitimate”.

  5. 5 austinfan said at 3:00 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Nothing shows you to be legitimate other than an extended period of play (or Chaney looked great for a couple games in 2010).

    However, the first two exhibition games, you play a lot of stiffs for a quarter or two, in the 4th exhibition games, the fringe players get into the game by the 2nd Q in most cases and then play an extended stretch against better quality than the first two games (the other team’s fringe roster players). So if you continue to look good, that’s a sign that you’re possibly legitimate.

    What you have to be wary of are flashes, fresh legs against tired legs can make a player look better than they are, so can a favorable matchup (Hunt against a backup OT who’s got questionable quickness and footwork would be a mismatch).

    I think the dilemma for a team is this, early in camp you’re trying to weed out those who lack NFL talent, because even in the exhibition games you have limited reps to give, and you want both practice and game reps to go to those who have a good shot (because the starters get their share to get ready for the season). Which is why I hate the idea of going to two exhibition games, then all you have to go on is practice, because your starters and top reserves get all the exhibition game reps to prepare for the season.

    Once the season begins, your backups are doing scout team duty in practice, so they get limited reps in your system, and it’s kinda difficult to show much other than athleticism when you’re imitating other teams’ players, rather than playing in your team’s system where you can demonstrate how well you’ve learned your role(s).

  6. 6 TommyLawlor said at 3:13 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    I do agree that the 4th PS game shows more than the others for backups. That is a valid point.

  7. 7 Steve H said at 1:45 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Remember that play in the opener last year where Rolle just destroyed the Rams center on that draw play? I was an instant fan after seeing that, and it’s hard to imagine someone who can devastate an OL like that actually needs to work on shedding blocks.

    Just out of curiosity Tommy, why did you nickname Rolle the little ball of hate?

  8. 8 TommyLawlor said at 2:42 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Jim Rome used to call Ray Ferraro (small NHL player) the little ball of hate. Loved the nickname. When I saw Rolle running around and punishing offensive players, the first thing that came to mind…little ball of hate.

  9. 9 D3Keith said at 3:33 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    I saw him called that on Philly.com and I was like “wasn’t that a Tommy thing, or is everything I read starting to run together?”

    It was in the comments, maybe by someone whose Disqus name is different than his philly.com name.

  10. 10 Flyin said at 2:02 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    The common theme from the players on defense is that the 1st 8 games were a learning, adjusting period trying to figure out what was going on. The last 8 games they started to get it and finished on a high note winning the last 4 and want to build off that.

    My question is… how much improvement did Rolle show towards the end of last season?

  11. 11 TommyLawlor said at 2:41 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    That quote is why I always say that players are the worst source of information. They say stuff that is wrong, doesn’t make sense, or fits into some other odd category. If Rolle played too fast and too out of control at times, that’s not what the coaches wanted.

    I’ll have to look at some notes and things to get a feel for how much Rolle did improve. Good question.

  12. 12 austinfan said at 3:04 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    I think what Rolle meant to say is they want them to play with speed and aggression, to be decisive and not be caught back on their heels. A young player can misinterpret that to be permission to play out of control, that will get beat out of him in the film room!

    However, that’s always a balance on defense, veteran read and react defenses make fewer mistakes but are often a step slow to the ball, young aggressive defenses are vulnerable to play action, misdirection and over running plays, but they can also physically dominate opponents.

  13. 13 Flyin said at 5:37 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    The comment seemed to have a little Asante influence. Which is another topic about how Asante was trying to teach the DB’s his way. Which didn’t work. I think it may have been Nnamdi that brought that up.

  14. 14 D3FB said at 2:58 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Of course the million dollar question for us to ponder now is: Dinner with the Matthews clan or Pudding w/ Rolle and TLAW?

  15. 15 TommyLawlor said at 3:19 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    You haven’t lived until you’ve sat down with Brian and I for our nightly pudding fiesta. We watch and discuss an episode of Law&Order SVU. He likes the ones where Stabler is angry, Olivia is sexy, and they bust a serial rapist. I like the ones where Stabler is angry, Olivia is sexy, and they bust a serial killer. That’s quality family time.

  16. 16 the guy said at 3:21 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    So… what you’re saying is the flavor of the month is actually chocolate pudding?

    I was going with the new Wendy’s mac and cheese, but I can live with that.

  17. 17 TommyLawlor said at 3:51 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    So close! Chocolate pudding is the flavor of the decade.

    Cinnamon is actually the flavor of the month.

  18. 18 Cafone said at 5:03 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Forget Damaris Johnson. My flavor of the month is future All-Pro running back Bryce Brown.

  19. 19 TommyLawlor said at 5:16 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    He’s in the running…so to speak.

  20. 20 Anders Jensen said at 5:54 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Funny thing is that Brown got all the tools to become an All-Pro RB, he just need to embrace his current situation (from PE.com it sounds like he is hardworking right now), whole DJ potential is more inline with what he did in college (One can make a living out of that)

  21. 21 GeorgeFleep said at 6:08 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    When i mentioned Wes Welker i was joking. But could you imagine if that happens. Mardy and Damarius seems to be a fun competition and same goes for Cooper and McNutt.

    Does anybody view the LB backups as Mathews and Chaney being able to do almost any LB position. Chaney should know all the positions and their responsibilities after TC because of all his time at backup WLB. Mathews can play MLB and WLB.

  22. 22 TommyLawlor said at 6:17 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Right now backups are:

    SAM – Jordan … MLB – Casey … WLB – Chaney

    That is not even close to set in stone.

  23. 23 GeorgeFleep said at 6:22 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    If every LB is completely healthy but Kendricks wouldnt eagles rather have Chaney their instead of Jordan. Mathews could always play WLB right? How well does he know that position? Im just throwing out a crazy idea because Jordan is no where near the type of athleticism that Chaney has. I wonder if these backups will stay this way when Clayton comes back. WHen is that end of TC?

  24. 24 JRO91 said at 9:01 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    Akeem Jordan is a LB I’d love for them to hold onto….flashy…no, but he plays. He’s great on ST and he’s not afraid to take a hit. I remember him stuffing Brandon Jacobs on 3rd and short against the GMEN last year. Jacobs has him by 20lbs.

  25. 25 Cliff said at 8:59 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    I thought you were joking!

  26. 26 Midnight_Greenville said at 8:12 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Interesting dichotomy I’ve noticed lately, speaking of flavor of the month. Philly.com writers seem to be touting Curtis Marsh a lot at these OTA’s (for whatever that’s worth). Dave Spadaro said in his column on PE.com that it will be hard for Marsh to make the team and implied that Hanson and Hughes were clearly ahead of him on depth chart.
    Seems strange to me, and typically you would expect Spadaro to be the one touting the recent high draft choice, especially if the writers are hearing good things about him. I can’t really imagine the Eagles cutting a 3rd round choice from last year unless they thought he had no future.
    What gives?

  27. 27 GeorgeFleep said at 10:09 PM on June 5th, 2012:

    Ive heard stranger things but this is one of the strangest things ive heard in a while. Can you give a link to Dave saying that Hanson and Hughes are clearly ahead of him on depth chart. Hughes and Hanson have more slot ability than Marsh. Maybe they are higher that way but either way i know for sure Marsh is on the field on any Dime plays so he is atleast the 4th CB. Which makes sense because starting RCB and LCB then SLot then 4th CB. I can see marsh playing outside while Nnamdi plays over the tight end. This will help Boykin and Hanson to focus on the slot position instead of moving slot to outside.

  28. 28 Midnight_Greenville said at 7:02 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    Here is the link and here is the quote:

    “My top five cornerbacks, based on these practices: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin and Brandon Hughes. Curtis Marsh, a third-round draft pick last year, has to step up to earn a roster spot here. And I’m not down on Hanson, as some out there seem to be. He’s a tough guy, a scrappy competitor and he can play inside and outside. Boykin, I will say, is really impressive.”

  29. 29 A_T_G said at 12:12 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Could be a trade bait announcement on Hanson. I think ideally, Boykin proves enough to make Hanson redundant and the other 5 stay- an outside specialist, an inside specialist, Nnamdi with flexibility, and two backups that can play all three spots collectively. If Boykin isn’t ready, I think it handcuffs us a bit.

  30. 30 TommyLawlor said at 12:30 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    Yep, possibility. Dave does a good job of delivering whatever message the team is trying to get out.

  31. 31 Midnight_Greenville said at 6:08 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    But, really, what trade value could Hanson have? Asante got us a 7th round pick. We cut Hanson last year. It seems any GM worth their salt would wait them out and let him get cut.

  32. 32 Davesbeard said at 4:45 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    Very odd considering it was Marsh getting a lot of the 1st team reps when DRC was stuck on a plane.

  33. 33 JRO91 said at 9:00 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    Rolle was a starting MLB at Ohio State. He did pretty well there, and faced some BIG oline’s. I really think is going to be a London Fletcher typer player. He is undersized, yes, but is very strong, used to taking on big Olineman, and can run with pretty much any TE/RB in the league. Plus with a real MLB next to him, it will take some pressure off if him. Plus, the Machine Gun celebration last year was one of the best!!!

  34. 34 Kyle said at 9:16 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    He definitely can not run with pretty much any TE/RB

  35. 35 Lukekelly65 said at 10:28 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    Tommy quick question i was wondering if Cliff Harris is going to make it to any OTAs or will he not be here til minicamp?

  36. 36 TommyLawlor said at 12:29 PM on June 6th, 2012:

    He can practice as soon as Oregon’s students are done with this quarter. June 18th is Commencement. He’ll be free after that.

  37. 37 juggadore said at 10:50 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    damaris johnson doesnt have to be a great receiver or anything — just an RS with the ability to keep desean jackson honest and competitive.

  38. 38 Lukekelly65 said at 11:45 AM on June 6th, 2012:

    i just saw this video of johnson talking after pratice.. he seems like a good kid really hope he makes the roster