Interesting Times Up Front

Posted: May 25th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 48 Comments »

The Eagles offensive line is all over the place right now. We’ve got guys coming back from injury and other guys either still hurt or getting worked on. Last year’s rookie is starting for now, while this year’s rookie is a backup. That has people curious. Nobody knows what to make of Danny Watkins. And new OL coach Jeff Stoutland remains a mystery.

Stoutland was interviewed the other day and has video of it.  The man said good things about both Kelce and Mathis so clearly he needs some professional help. Giving public compliments to those guys is just asking for trouble.  It is funny to hear how much he likes the NFL. “No recruiting.”  He can devote all his time to coaching and just football. Being a college coach means dealing with a lot of B.S. You’ve got to recruit. You’ve got NCAA stuff to deal with. There are classes and exams.

Stoutland made a great point about the no-huddle. He said that it makes defensive coaches very nervous. The big issue is that those guys love specialty packages. They can’t use them against the no-huddle. They have to run in one group of players and stick with those guys.

Howard Mudd was funnier, but Stoutland seems like a good guy. He certainly has a terrific track record.

* * * * *

Should we be concerned that Lane Johnson is a backup right now?  I don’t think so. I like the fact that Chip Kelly isn’t just giving him the job. Kelly is going to make every player earn his spot. Johnson is learning the offense and adjusting to the NFL. Johnson has had 3 rookie camp practices and 6 days of team OTAs. If we’re in mid-August and Johnson is still the backup RT, we’ll re-visit this discussion and it will be much different.  I don’t anticipate that happening.

Let’s talk about Johnson a bit more.  While he is incredibly talented, he is still a bit of a project. Johnson has only played on the OL for a couple of years, starting at RT in 2011 and LT in 2012.  He has a great combination of size, athleticism, and natural ability, but he is not a polished blocker by any stretch of the imagination.

Football analyst Ben Muth specializes in writing about OL since he played the position at Stanford. In a recent column, Muth wrote several paragraphs praising Johnson and then said this:

“All that being said, Johnson is a pretty horrific fundamental pass blocker who probably wouldn’t have gone in the top five in any other draft. Well, maybe the 2000 NBA Draft. Nothing he does can’t be fixed, but if you’re taking someone that early, you would probably like a few less loose nails. Let’s start with the fact that he leads with his head all the time.”

Muth does a good job detailing his concerns and the areas where Johnson must improve. There were reportedly some teams that didn’t think there were 3 OTs at the top of the draft but rather Joeckel/Fisher and then a whole major level below them was Johnson. Obviously the Eagles didn’t feel this way. Nor did I.

Here’s the tricky part with a guy like Johnson. If he was a polished player, he’d have gone #1 overall. He’d have been a better version of Joe Thomas. Johnson isn’t polished. There are some questions. However, these are issues that can be fixed by coaching. If you think he’s smart and hard working, you then anticipate the coach fixing the issues. There are no physical concerns with Johnson.

The flip side is that NFL teams are nervous about Iowa OL. Those guys are experienced, polished players who come out of an NFL type offensive system. They have less upside so you have to be careful when rating them. It isn’t quite “what you see is what you get”, but it is much closer to that than with guys from almost every other school.

Muth did say in his piece that he thinks Johnson can be a great NFL player.  Me too.

* * * * *

So with Johnson on the second team that means Dennis Kelly is starting.  Reuben Frank wrote about that the other day.

Kelly isn’t naive. He knows that the Eagles drafted Johnson 4th overall and what that means. Still, Kelly has the right attitude. He’s got the job for now and will do everything in his power to keep it.  Kelly has experience at RT, having finished there down the stretch last year. He didn’t light it up, but showed some promise.

That experience involved Andy Reid and Howard Mudd. This is Chip Kelly’s world.  That’s not lost on Kelly and he is acting accordingly.

“I tried to slim down a little,” he said. “I’m still probably about the same weight, but it’s better weight. From a cardio aspect, I probably started a little bit early just to make sure I wasn’t taken aback and keeling over on the first day.”

Kelly was hardly a fatboy last year, but you must be in top shape to play for Chip so it was wise to get in good shape and be ready for the up-tempo offense.

Can Dennis Kelly be the #3 OT for the Eagles? That would be ideal. I’m not sure what to think of him at LT. He showed LT potential at Purdue, which is where he played for them, but I didn’t see that ability last year. He was just a rookie so you can’t make too much of that.

Most likely, Herremans or Johnson would slide over to LT. Kelly would replace Johnson at RT if he moved. I don’t know about RG. Kelly hasn’t practiced there this year. Maybe Danny Watkins would take that spot if the team wanted Herremans to shift over to LT.

* * * * *

Speaking of Watkins…he is definitely a Stoutland fan. Tim McManus wrote a good piece on Watkins the other day.   Watkins didn’t get along with Mudd and struggled with his scheme.

“I struggled with Howard, and his coaching and some of his concepts,” Watkins admitted. “But that’s not his fault, that’s on me — that’s my responsibility to get better and do what I need to do. But this is more of a conventional type of offense in the pass protection and run progressions so it feels a lot better.”

It would be easy to rip Watkins for his struggles, but I am encouraged that he took responsibility there. “That’s on me.” Those are important words to hear. It helps you to think he’s got a chance. If Watkins simply thought that a new coach would magically solve everything, his career would definitely be headed to a bad conclusion.

I think there is still hope for Watkins. He is a good fit for the running that Chip Kelly wants to do. The injury to Mathis could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Getting reps with the 1’s has to help his confidence, no matter the reason. You just have to feel better when you’re on the field with Peters and Herremans.

I don’t anticipate Watkins winning a starting job, but it would be good to see him play well and get his career back on track. We will have injuries at some point. It would be nice to have an experienced OG to plug into the lineup.

* * * * *

Ed Kracz of got some good comments from Stoutland about backup C prospects, Dallas Reynolds and…Julian Vandervelde.

Stoutland said he made some corrections with the way Reynolds uses his hands and that he is improving.

The line coach then mentioned Julian Vandervelde as someone who could be a factor in the race to be the backup center.

“Vandervelde is an interesting guy,” Stoutland said. “He has some girth to him. He can get some push. In this league there are a lot of 3-4 teams who are playing the big nose guard, and you better have somebody who can move him from a physicality standpoint. I think he brings a little bit of that to the table. I’m letting him play more center than before because I want to look at him to see if that’s a possibility for him. And it’s intriguing me.”

Mudd tried to get Vandervelde to play C last year and that didn’t work at all. Vandervelde struggled early on and that seemed to affect his confidence and then he even struggled some at OG. I don’t think his issues had anything to do with Mudd. I just think Vandervelde didn’t handle the move to C well. Some guys can make the move, some can’t.

I’m betting Vandervelde spent January, February, March, and April snapping the ball and trying to play some C. If you can play G and C, you greatly improve your hopes of having a long career as a backup OL. Much harder to make it as a pure OG.

No word on Matt Tennant or UDFA Kyle Quinn. I think Quinn could be a natural in Kelly’s offense.


48 Comments on “Interesting Times Up Front”

  1. 1 the guy said at 2:15 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Out of curiosity, if you had the chance to coach a position group, what would it be?

  2. 2 deg0ey said at 5:35 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Would have to be DL, right? Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to repeatedly shout ‘MOAR VIOLENCE!’ at work and not have everyone think you’re a loon?

  3. 3 GEagle said at 7:51 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    QBs…so I could make sure Vick only got reps with the practice squad lol

  4. 4 A_T_G said at 8:59 AM on May 25th, 2013:


  5. 5 TommyLawlor said at 9:52 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    And I would be very, very hands on.

  6. 6 A_T_G said at 10:50 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    We would be very detail focused and bring in some revolutionary ideas. Off the top of my head, stretching and flexibility training, pairing up with a partner and following a program designed specifically to be most effective on muscles being warmed by the shower water. Under the watchful eye of myself and my staff, of course.

    My selection of music might vary slightly from Chip’s, however…

  7. 7 TommyLawlor said at 11:25 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    You are officially my special assistant.

  8. 8 deg0ey said at 11:31 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Presumably you’d prescribe a healthy dose of Marvin Gaye and Barry White?

  9. 9 D3Center said at 11:32 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    I think you forgot about monitoring sleep patterns for optimal performance.

  10. 10 jshort said at 1:59 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    You guys are sick!!! Just hire the guy from West Point to be in charge of video and distribution. Tommy, can then buy an NFL team and scout his own players with his share of the proceeds.

  11. 11 Anders said at 2:27 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    You have to remember an Xbox One for them……

  12. 12 TommyLawlor said at 9:53 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    DL. The thought of coaching guys like Trent Cole and Derek Landri would put a smile on anyone’s face.

  13. 13 T_S_O_P said at 3:38 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    On Vandervelde: Could playing C for Stoutland be easier because of all the protection calls required by Mudd? Learning to pat your head is easier than learning to pat your head and rub your stomach.

  14. 14 TommyLawlor said at 9:55 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Possible. Really seemed like simply getting out of his comfort zone last year got to Vandy’s confidence. Might be better this summer simply because he did try it last year. Won’t be totally new to him.

  15. 15 deg0ey said at 5:42 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    I wonder if part of the reason that Kelly doesn’t seem fazed by Johnson getting drafted fourth overall is that he knows how old Peters is.

    As a 5th round pick, with only one year under his belt, he must have some pretty big deficiencies in his game (else he’s have been drafted higher), but he’s actually in a really good position with the Eagles. He’s getting reps with the 1’s for the moment, during the season he’ll likely be the first guy up if there’s an injury at OT and all of those things should help him develop as a player to the point where he’s in consideration for the starting RT gig when JP reties and Johnson moves over to the left, be that next season or in three years time.

  16. 16 GEagle said at 8:38 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Really like the Lane wasnt just handed the starting spot the moment he walked in the building. Let the 4th pick feel like he has to claw and scratch to get on the field…..

    Todd Lyght gave some interesting perspective about our practice methods. He has an interesting View point, being a CB going up against the greatest show on turf offense every day in practice and then coaching against the oregon offense every day in practice:
    “We used to go so hard in practice that the games were easy, and I think Coach Kelly wants to emulate that. We want to go very hard in practice and put as much pressure on our players as possible so the games on Sunday will be slow and will be easy for them, and I think the players have done a tremendous job picking up all the information that we’re giving them”.
    On the Benefits of the Eagles defense practicing against the Eagles offense in a hectic environment:
    “First and foremost, it helps the conditioning, but it also helps the thought process of being able to think quickly,” he said. “It forces you to analyze a formation, analyze a play, anticipate motions and shifts and be able to make the adjustments very fast.
    “We want to be a very smart, intelligent football team with a high IQ that’s also very tough. Not just physically tough but mentally tough, and I think that being able to think really fast on your feet makes you a mentally tough team. And that’s going to help us win ballgames down the road.”
    Its a great read, alot more interesting nuggets:

  17. 17 GEagle said at 10:56 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    To add, Im very excited to see the effects training in this environment against this offense day in and day out will have on a cerebral player Like Demeco…I expect him to be extra sharp this season, after having to call the shots against this chaotic offense day in and day out

  18. 18 GEagle said at 7:47 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    liked hearing Dennis Kelly’s thoughts on Lane:
    “He’s good. He’s quick. Very explosive. He’s picking it up pretty quickly, which is really impressive. There’s no arrogance or anything like that.”-D.Kelly

  19. 19 GEagle said at 8:25 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    really enjoyed listening to Stoutland talk..Sounds like a very bright line coach, who treats players in a way that they will respond to(Im looking at you Mudd)..
    1)Toddfathers personality..Stoutland praised him for how he hoots and hollars throughout every practice, how is energy level is through the roof and what a pleasure it is to coach a guy with that type of love for the game. Says players like Todd, who love every single day of their NFL career will last and play a long time in this league.
    2)Kelce…Stout seems really impressed with Kelce, and how bright he is. Says he tells Kelce an adjustment once, and Kelce incorporates it in his game instantly. Hinted at how Kelce can really help out the guards. “If I tell Kelce, I want you to aim at that arm pity, and give that guard a surface to strike, DONE..Its not like you have to wait 5 more periods for him to get it done, so he can advance us quickly through the learning process”..”there are things you can do to help a guy, say there is a Giant NT 2gapping us, theres concepts and ideas you can utilize to get a guy like that. I have alot of experience against that 3-4, coaching against Alabama’s pro style defense, and Georgia’s(which he says is practically the redskins defense).

    3)Mathis..Stout is maticulous and a stickler for detail, so it makes sense that he is so enamored with Mathis who he says is such a student of the game. Mathis can tell you the responsibility of all the positions on the line. Mathis can tell you what the Center and Tackles are doing on every single play. Talked about how Mathis has a detailed notebook about every single technique Stout has taught since he has been here.

    4)Watkins…”I dont know what happened before I got here..I try to be extremely detailed so there is no questions in any players mind,They dont like grey area, so Im not going to leave any area grey for them..Heres what I want you to do, I want you to step 6 inches with your left foot then I want you to take your inside foot, and step on his inside foot,so if you dont do that on film, Im going to remind you because thats exactly what I want it to they have a reference point”…
    I feel like the interview in its entirety wasnt aired on PE…where would I find the rest of the video?….Wish I could have heard Stout talk about Peters, Lane and Dennis

  20. 20 HipDaDip said at 10:41 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Are you suggesting those sorts of specifics from Stout will be particularly helpful for Watkins? Did he struggle with vagueness/room for creativity from Mudd?

  21. 21 GEagle said at 10:54 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    m not suggesting anything about watkins..just passing along info from Stoutland…If you take this quote, and combine it with Danny’s quote about how he was often confused…I see how we could reach that conclusion…I really liked hearing Danny Admit he was lost under Mudd, but that it was his fault not mudd’ Tom wrote, I also got a sense of hope from the quote

  22. 22 Anders said at 12:42 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Getting Stoutland might be the biggest scoop Kelly did in terms of coaching assistance.

  23. 23 GEagle said at 3:09 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    yeah, he might be the assistant Im most excited about as well

  24. 24 EaglesHero87 said at 10:02 PM on May 26th, 2013:

    I have no idea why you got downvoted once for this comment, but I agree that Stoutland might be one of the assistant coaches I’m most looking forward to seeing what he’ll bring to the offensive line.

  25. 25 GEagle said at 10:42 AM on May 27th, 2013:

    lol this is grade school, did you know? I get downvoted for anything I type..where have you been? lol..Ill start downvoting myself to play along

  26. 26 GEagle said at 10:44 AM on May 27th, 2013:

    really excited about Minter as well. check out his interview with SPads on PE…to get a smart guy, who has been a HC or coordinator since 84, now basically only being responsible for 2 players, Demeco and Kendricks…thats extremely exciting to me! we wont be lacking attention to detail thats for sure

  27. 27 ClydeSide said at 8:42 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    I loved the interview too. Chip Kelly once said that the offensive linemen were the most important people on the field. He wouldn’t turn that over to a dumbass. Stoutland is one the best in the business. For that matter, the overall quality of Kelly’s coaching staff is through the roof. I loved the comment about the center taking on a big two-gapping nosetackle “WE’VE GOT TECHNIQUES FOR THAT.” Everybody’s playing Alabama defense—Washington Redskins? “That’s Alabama.” Love it. LOL

  28. 28 GEagle said at 8:12 AM on May 26th, 2013:


  29. 29 Tumtum said at 8:55 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Its this time of year when I get worried about the dreaded D word. Depth. It seems like the more excited you get about depth the worse it proves to be when it is tested. Of course this makes no sense, but look at the Orioles pitching staff. No one thought we had 5 aces but it looked like there were close to 10 guys that could be counted on in starting roles. Proving to be a little different in reality (though not as bad as I’m making it out to be). The o line last year was the same way.

    That being said… Our depth is looking to be scary!!

  30. 30 TommyLawlor said at 10:07 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    The OL last year got overwhelmed by injuries. No one can handle that kind of extreme situation well.

    Having Watkins, Reynolds, and Kelly as top backups would be nice. Really would help for another OT to show something, whether Purcell, Wang, or Tobin.

    I hope the O’s will be fine once the starters get back. Hammel, Chen, Miggy, Tillman, and Gausman sounds pretty good. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that Johnson’s recent struggles were just a temporary issue.

  31. 31 Tumtum said at 2:38 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    I think your right on both accounts. I wouldn’t worry too much about JJ. He had a stretch like this right around the same time last year iirc. It didn’t get much play though because I don’t think it accounted for any blown saves. Strope however needs to get his head (hat?) on strait!

  32. 32 Songbird Rescue Cat said at 10:33 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    I know Mathis is out due to his ankle clean up. I know Kelce has been around, wearing a knee brace and very limited in practices.

    Two players I haven’t heard much about, at all, are Todd Herremans and Jason Peters. How is Todd doing at RG, since he was a long time LG? How is Peters? I saw an interview with Peters back before the draft where he said he was 100%. Does he look 100%?

  33. 33 TommyLawlor said at 10:41 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Peters is A-OK. Looks great. Coach Stout is a happy man.

    Stout said Herremans will be good at RG. He looks fine so far, but there is only so much you can see of a OG in non-contact stuff. Todd isn’t having any foot issues.

  34. 34 GEagle said at 5:14 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Said its valuable for Todd to have played Tackle so he has an overall view, instead of just a guards point of view

  35. 35 TommyLawlor said at 11:31 AM on May 25th, 2013:

    Did a quick post on Bill Davis.

  36. 36 GEagle said at 5:15 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    good stuff

  37. 37 Jack Waggoner said at 6:47 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    That dialect of his… he says he’s from Ohio. I’m thinking he’s mountain people, Appalachian part of Ohio.

  38. 38 austinfan said at 12:50 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    While Mudd is a top flight OL coach, he’s had an up and down record over the years with young players, he seems to do better reviving the careers of “marginal” veterans, probably because a guy who’s had two or three OL coaches can adjust to Mudd’s techniques and personality easier than a raw rookie. It also seems that since his tenure in Indy, he became more idiosyncratic as an OL coach.

    Stoutland is unproven as a NFL coach, but has been an elite college OL coach, so it’s not surprising he works well with young players, he’s been coaching them his whole career, and has to replace OL every couple years and work with a new group. From first glance, he seems to be a KISS guy, working on simple details until they’re second nature, focusing on execution more than fancy blocking schemes (don’t think we’ll see the LG pull to the right edge to pass block anytime soon).

    If Stoutland can rescue Watkins and Vandervelde, and coach up a Kopa or Menkin, that’s like picking up a couple extra draft picks – that’s the value of good coaching, taking players that have failed or never been given a good chance to compete and turn them into players who can make a meaningful contribution to the team. You aren’t going to have 10 1st rd picks starting for you most seasons, you need to find some diamonds in the rough.

  39. 39 Ark87 said at 12:58 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    With the exception of Jason Kelce and maybe Dennis Kelly, it does seem like Mudd’s coaching had a marginal effect on our young linemen. We are sort of loaded with raw but talented O-linemen. We could definitely use them becoming starting caliber as the starters aren’t getting any younger.

  40. 40 TommyLawlor said at 7:20 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Interesting theory on Mudd and young players. You could be onto something there.

  41. 41 EaglesHero87 said at 10:08 PM on May 26th, 2013:

    What about Demetrius Bell? Isn’t he a “veteran” player whom we all kind of hoped that Mudd would revive, or at least improve, his career? On the other hand, I know Bell exemplifies the greatest exception to the rule as he was the crappiest player I’ve ever witnessed as an offensive lineman.

  42. 42 Ark87 said at 1:00 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    I hope Kelce can com back all the way from this injury. He’ll almost certainly be plenty athletic enough, but I wonder how much this set back his strength training (particularly in the lower body), anchoring has always been the thing keeping him out of elite status.

  43. 43 D3FB said at 6:35 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Any word on how Menkin in adjusting?

  44. 44 TommyLawlor said at 7:20 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Not a word,

  45. 45 Jack Waggoner said at 10:30 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Here’s something fun: a profile on Randall Cunningham II

  46. 46 Jack Waggoner said at 10:57 PM on May 25th, 2013:

    Looks like his father, too

  47. 47 austinfan said at 7:00 AM on May 26th, 2013:

    Interesting Stoutland quote:

    “We run a lot of the same plays here that we ran there. It’s just that we’re spread out a little bit more than we were there. But the schemes are the same. Zone plays. We ran the inside zone play at Alabama. We ran the outside zone play. Eddie Lacy ran for 250 yards in the last two games of the year running the
    outside zone.’’

    The wider sets require quicker, more athletic OL, especially in pass protection (bigger gaps), but also makes it easier to get to the second level (harder for DL to grap the OL, not that a NFL DL would ever break the rules and do that).

    But the basics will be the same, the OL just have to be quicker getting to their targets. And with the up tempo offense, they have to be in good aerobic shape, which limits size – note that of all the OL added this offseason, none weighed more than 314 (Wang), the three biggest holdovers are Peters, Herremans (both exceptional athletes for their size) and Kelly (who hasn’t added weight, instead he’s trying to reduce body fat).

    Interesting that Stoutland is working on Vandervelde at center, he’s the same age as Kelce, and not that far behind athletically:

    Kelce 6-3 280 [4.89 1.70 — 4.14 7.22 30 9’2]

    Vandervelde 6-2 301 [5.12 1.68 23 4.52 7.30 31 8’10]

  48. 48 Lukekelly65 said at 9:21 AM on May 26th, 2013:

    This is totally off topic but i saw last night Everett Golson was dismissed from ND i know he was only a freshmen last year but does that make him eligible for the supplemental draft this year? if so i think hes a really interesting guy he would need tons of work but i think his age and the skills he flashed last year would make you take a look at him… im not saying give up a 2nd round pick for him but i think it would be wise to atleast kick the tires on the guy if he is eligible