Listen Up You Hosers

Posted: April 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 12 Comments »

Apparently the Eagles will be playing up in Canada against the Bills this year.  The schedule will be officially released tonight so we’ll have confirmation soon enough.  Buffalo has lost the games played in Toronto each of the last 2 years (MIA, CHI).  Of course, those weren’t exactly juggernaut Bills teams.

I expect a large contingent of Eagles fans to take over the stadium and introduce our Canadian brothers to the way a football game is supposed to be.  The last 2 years the stadium has lacked atmosphere.  That better change in 2011.

Just a heads up for those that go, if you find a mouse in a bottle of beer from the Elsinore Brewery, that is against the Canadian Criminal Code and you’re entitled to a free case.  Just go to the brewery and tell ’em that Bob and Doug sent ya.

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I was listening to the Dan Patrick show this morning.  They had a discussion about the battle for the cover of the upcoming Madden game.  It is down to Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick.  One point someone brought up was whether fans should want their favorite player to win.  There is a “Madden cover curse” that has plagued some guys in the past, mainly in the form of injuries.  One of Dan’s assistants made the joke that he’d just gotten an email from Kevin Kolb saying that Vick should absolutely win and get the cover.

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I want to pause some of the O-line discussion and save that for after the draft.  There were some good questions and comments on Monday.  That will make for a good discussion in early May.  We won’t be talking about mini-camp or UDFAs.

I will talk about the draft angle.  Mudd doesn’t require guys that are massive, but that doesn’t mean he can’t use them effectively.  Mudd needs players that can move, whether they are big or small.  Jason Peters is thick/heavy, but is agile enough to be fine in Mudd’s system.  Winston Justice is 6’5, 320.  That’s hardly a huge OT.  He’s also agile enough for Mudd’s system.  A guy like Jon Runyan might have been awkward.

On the inside, Mudd does prefer guys that are lighter.  Guards/Centers that go 330 pounds tend not to have the footwork and athleticism he likes.  I popped in some Eagles tape last night just to watch a couple of series.  Nick Cole would be a complete debacle in this system.  He has the lateral agility of a mountain.  Max Jean-Gilles is hardly nimble, but he’s at least guy a fighting chance with his new build.  He looked like a whole new guy last year, after shedding about 60 pounds.

Todd Herremans gets listed at 320, but that’s a joke.  I heard from one person a couple of years ago that Todd got down to 280 in that offseason.  He doesn’t look that light, but he’s not 320.  He’ll be fine.  McGlynn has a good build.  He’s strong enough to anchor, but isn’t so big that he can’t move and cover a small space.

The Eagles can look for interior blockers anywhere in the draft, but they don’t have to come from the first couple of rounds.  I still think Clint Boling in the 2nd round would make a lot of sense.  The Eagles can see if Will Rackley or Rodney Hudson is around in the 3rd.  A guy like Marcus Cannon would have been ideal for Juan Castillo’s system, but isn’t a good use of resources for Mudd’s system.

The Eagles can go look for a guy even later.  One consideration is that the lower the pick, the less likely that the player will challenge for playing time in 2011.  If Howard wants a starter, he probably ought to find that guy in the 2nd or 3rd.  If he wants a player to develop, he can go 4th, 5th, or even lower, depending on how he likes the G/C class.

I’ve touched on this before, but it’s worth bringing up again.  With Castillo, we focused on OTs.  We spent little time on pure C’s and G’s.  We wanted OTs, especially LTs.  They had the size, arm length, and footwork needed for Juan’s system.  The hiring of Mudd gives us the freedom to look at a pure G like Hudson (291 pounds).  We can still look at someone like Rackley who played LT, but projects to the inside in the NFL.  Rackley isn’t so big that he can’t play G or C in Mudd’s system.  He uses his hands well and has good lateral agility.  He could be a good RG in the new system.

We discussed this in the column I wrote after reading the interview with Howard, but one of the key factors is finding guys that are mentally tough and coachable.  Small school players tend to have a chip on their shoulder since they didn’t go to a football school like Penn State, Ohio State, or Michigan Iowa.  Those guys are more likely to listen to a coach and focus on fundamentals than a kid from a big school who is used to being praised.  Mudd had good success with players from mid-major and small schools.  That should make Rackley and Slippery Rock C Brandon Fusco all the more interesting to him.

Who are some mid-to-late round players that could be of interest?

Will Rackley ——- Lehigh ———– 6’3, 309 — 3rd round
Rodney Hudson — Fla St. ———— 6’2, 291 — 3rd round
Brandon Fusco —- Slippery Rock — 6’4, 302 — 4th round
David Arkin ——– Missouri State – 6’5, 300 — 5th round
Stephen Schilling — Michigan ——- 6’4, 305 — 5th round
Andrew Jackson — Fresno State — 6’4, 299 — 5th round
Caleb Schlauderaff – Utah ———— 6’4, 302 — late rounder

Those are my guesses at the kind of projections we would have on those players.  I’m sure some sites might have them rated higher or lower.  I’m trying to guess what the Eagles/Howard Mudd will think/see/want.  Fusco is the only outright Center in the group.  This is a terrible class of Centers.  I think highly of him, but otherwise I think you’re better off taking another player and moving them to the middle.  Some people feel Hudson could be a good C.

I have to admit that the more I think about Rackley as a potential RG, the more intrigued I get.  Is he worth our 2nd rounder?  Will he last to the 3rd?  Ask about other players if you like.  It is possible I’ve overlooked someone.  Do remember, that the list was guys who should be in rounds 3-7.  That’s why I didn’t bother with Pouncey, Watkins, and guys like that.  I’m also doubtful that Stefen Wisniewski makes it far into the 3rd round, if at all.

I’ve got a post half-done with some draft Q&A from the last couple of days.  I’ll finish that and post late tonight or early tomorrow.

Mudd’s Passion

Posted: April 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 21 Comments »

For those who haven’t been by recently, Dave Spadaro has posted a really good interview with new OL coach Howard Mudd.  I encourage everyone to read it.

I came away thinking that Winston Justice will either push for a Pro Bowl spot or be an ex-Eagle at the end of 2011.  Howard is tough.  He’s hard on his players.  Those that can handle it, thrive.  Those that can’t…hit the bricks, pal.  Check out this quote.

“A weak-minded player has no chance with me. This is a tough game and it is a tough world. The quarterback doesn’t care if you feel sorry for yourself. He doesn’t care. He’s on his back. That’s all he cares about,” says Mudd. “It’s not OK that he is on his back. What’s OK is to recognize that what you did was a failure, so let’s go fix it. I have a list of excuses, so I say to a player when he starts explaining what happened, ‘Just give me a number. I have the list, about 10 or 12 of them.’ Players say, ‘The back knocked me off my block,’ or, ‘I slipped,’ or, ‘I did what you told me but it didn’t work.’ All excuses. None of them are reasons.

“Eventually, if you are going to survive in this world, you can’t dance around the truth. You have to confront it and you have to be honest with yourself and if you want to excel, you have to commit yourself to that concept.

Winston has the talent to be an outstanding RT.  He showed real flashes of that in 2009.  Howard is here to get Justice back to that form, and better.  If Justice buys in, the sky is the limit.

One of the reasons I like Howard so much is that he’s not trying to re-invent the wheel.  He is a believer in fundamentals and repetition.  Football can be a pretty simple game when you really break it down.  Learn certain basic techniques and then spend time perfecting them.  You’ll never do it, but the pursuit of perfection (as Lombardi talked about) is what leads to really good things.  More from Howard:

“Uniformity is a big deal to me. We’re going to do the same things the same way every time. We’re going to do a few things and do those things extraordinarily well,” says Mudd. “I’ll live with that principle forever and ever and ever. I will tell the players this: We’re doing to do the same drills on the first day of training camp that we do on the final day of practice before the Super Bowl. We’re going to hit the same sled. We’re going to do the same footwork and I’m going to make you do it right. My job is to make them do it right. That’s the way the world is. You can either embrace it or not embrace it. But that’s the way we’re going to do things around here, because I know what works.”

We all want to see better OL play in 2011.  I think the addition of Howard Mudd will have a big impact on the guys.  He’s not inheriting chopped liver.  Jason Peters is a Pro Bowl player.  Todd Herremans has shown flashes of that kind of ability.  Justice has big time potential.  Jamaal Jackson at C and Mike McGlynn at RG are more uncertain.  JamJax can be a good C if he just returns to form after a long layoff.  RG is the mystery position.  I”m assuming McGlynn is the guy there, but don’t know that for a fact.  Howard is likely to get a G pretty early in the draft to work with.  He’ll also have Max Jean-Gilles.  Hopefully he can find a solid starter out of that group.

I came away really fired up after reading what Mudd had to say.  He’s not a jerk, but is hard on his players because he wants them to be at their best.  Tough love, I guess you’d say.  Players need to be pushed.  Graig Nettles (star 3B for the Yankees in the ’78 World Series) said the key to being a coach/manager is figuring out which guys to kick in the ass and which ones to kiss on the ass.  I get the feeling that Howard very much understands that principle.  Ted Daisher rubbed a lot of guys the wrong way because he pushed, but never praised.  Sean McDermott, to a lesser extent, had a similar issue.  Players have to understand you’re being hard on them for a reason.  If not, they think you’re a jerk and tune you out.

Now all we need is the resumption of football so Howard can actually get a chance to interact with his new players and “coach ’em up”.

p.s.   anybody get the title reference?

Eagles Q & A

Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: | 4 Comments »

I’ve gotten a bunch of good questions in the comments section recently and thought I’d answer them in the form of a post.

Was Justice bothered by the poor play at RG?

Yes.  It is hard to quantify how much, but when an offensive lineman isn’t in sync with the guy beside him it will have an effect.  Linemen have to trust each other.  I’m not talking about talent or personality, but rather that they are seeing the same things and taking the same counter-actions to whatever the defense is doing.  We’ve all heard the old saying that “he who hesitates is lost”.  That’s absolutely true with OL play.  Guys can’t doubt the players beside them.  They need to know what the player will do.  That chemistry and rapport takes time to build.  We had all kinds of shuffling in the offseason and preseason.  Justice never got comfortable with anyone at RG.

I’m not trying to excuse Winston for being an inconsistent player last year.  He absolutely has to improve in 2011, no matter the circumstances.  He had a good year in 2009.  He was up and down in 2010.  Winston’s performance this year will tell us what kind of a player he really is.  Was the aberration ’09 or ’10?

How many OL do you think we will draft? At least 2? More?

I think we’ll take a minimum of 2.  At least one of the picks will come in the first 3 rounds.  You can’t guarantee anything more than that because you just don’t know how the board will shake out.

We need 9 or 10 guys on the OL.  Right now we have Peters, Herremans, and McGlynn as the foundation.  Jamaal Jackson and Winston Justice are other starters.  That’s 5 so far.  Mix in Max Jean-Gilles, King Dunlap, and Austin Howard.  That’s 8.  The problem with that group is that several of them could be gone in 2012.  We do need a couple of guys to add to the mix, both to upgrade the overall talent and to add interior depth for the future.

Should the Eagles look to FA, specifically OG/C Jason Spitz and OT Jared Gaither?

Gaither – no.  Howard Mudd needs guys that he can push and prod.  He will be tough on his players.  Guys that don’t respond well to aggressive coaching wouldn’t be a good fit.  Gaither has a lot of talent, but I don’t bring him in to replace Justice.  Winston has just as much potential as Gaither in my mind.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

Spitz – maybe.  The Eagles did like him prior to the draft a few years back.  Jason has started at LG, C, and RG in the NFL.  That’s the kind of versatility you like.  I think the problem will be that Jason wants a regular starting gig.  Do we make him the RG?  What about Mike McGlynn?  You always look within for answers before looking to other teams.  Is Spitz such an upgrade on McGlynn that he’d be worth giving a nice deal to?  Is he an upgrade at all?  I don’t think this is a move that’s likely to happen.

I’m all for upgrading the OL, but Spitz seems more like change than upgrade.  I’d love to add him to the mix to compete for a job, but that doesn’t seem like something he’d be into.  And sadly, there is a legitimate chance that he won’t be a free agent.  If we use last year’s FA rules Spitz will be a year short (only 5 years in the league — 6 are needed).

What draft prospects might the Eagles like more than some other teams?

Here are 4 guys that could go late 1st or in the 2nd:

CB Jimmy Smith – we need a CB and seem to like him quite a bit.
DT Stephen Paea – great motor + a strong guy.  Castillo could love his playing style.
DE Brooks Reed – seems like a great fit for Washburn’s system.
DE Jabaal Sheard – see above.

Should we draft OL/DL early or let Mudd and Washburn coach up the guys we have?

I’m all for drafting an OL or DL early, if it is a player that we don’t already have in place.  I don’t want Gabe Carimi as my RT when I haven’t seen what Mudd can do with Winston Justice.  Winston is basically the same size as Carimi.  He’s stronger and more athletic.  Winston has shown he can be an above average starter in the NFL.  Carimi has good potential, but is still unproven.  Taking him makes little sense to me.

Adding someone like Tyron Smith with elite potential is a move I couldn’t complain about.  Adding a top shelf G or C to help with depth and challenge for a job is fine as well.  We have some guys penciled in at C and RG, but there are question marks.  Adding players to those areas makes some sense.

DL is a bit different.  You rotate guys and mix things up so finding snaps for guys up there isn’t as hard.  We could have a lot of turnover at DT after the year so adding a body there does make some sense.  Adding a DE would be long term thinking because of the uncertainty with Brandon Graham and the fact that Trent Cole is entering his 7th year in the league (time really flies, huh?).

I don’t want the Eagles to have the mindset that we must add a DL and reach for a player.  I am fine with us taking a good player who happens to be available and fits the new system.  I’ve seen some fans say “take away Cole and everyone else is garbage”.  I don’t get that at all.  I think we’ve got an above average DL.  I think the DEs will enjoy the new system and it will bring out the best in young guys like Sapp and Teo.  Darryl Tapp is probably a better fit for this system as well.

We need a talent infusion at CB.  How many should we draft?

I combined a comment someone made with a discussion I had with a friend recently.  I was killing time and scratching out mock draft ideas for the Eagles.  I had them take CBs in the 1st and 3rd rounds.  Is that overkill?

Asante Samuel is set at LCB.  Joselio Hanson is a good slot guy.  Beyond that we have a lot of question marks.  I’m not a huge Trevard Lindley fan.  The Eagles believe in him, but how much?  Will Dimitri Patterson return?  I was impressed with Brandon Hughes, but don’t want to make too much of one game.  After all, Dimitri was terrific vs Reggie Wayne and the Colts.

I fully expect the Eagles to take a CB in the 1st.  I hope we add another one in the 3rd or 4th.  CB is a premium position.  We need better talent at that spot.  Worst case scenario, Hughes and Lindley pan out and we’ve got too many good CBs down the road.  I’ll live with that.

Does LT and RT change with a left-handed QB?

Yes and no.  LT is a premium position because he protects the QB’s blindside.  Offenses and defenses built around that notion for the last 30 years.  Put in a lefty QB and that changes, somewhat.  You do need a RT who can keep the QB clean since he won’t see pass rushers coming.  At the same time, the best pass rushers tend to be RDEs.  You still need your best overall blocker at LT.  I guess the key thing to take away is that the RT can’t be a traditional RT that is a great run blocker, but only mediocre in pass pro.  You need a RT who can pass block.

Is Akeem Ayers visit a waste of time or legit interest in a 1st round LB?

Pre-draft visits are a mixture of genuine interest and smokescreens.  Ayers is best suited for a 3-4, but the Eagles might in fact have interest.  Ayers would be a SAM in the base defense and pass rusher in the Nickel/Dime.  We could use him on zone blitzes in passing situations because he’s actually experienced and comfortable in coverage.  I doubt Ayers is a realistic target, but I’m not ready to completely dismiss this just because he’s a LB.  He’s more than that.

Could the Eagles have interest in Vernon Gholston as a reclamation project?

Doubtful.  Vern played for Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan, a pair of gifted defensive minds.  Ryan has especially been good at finding how to use pass rushers/LBs to maximize their potential.  Rex had guys of all different shapes and sizes in Baltimore that played well for him.  The fact that he tried so hard to make Gholston a good player, but couldn’t do it really hurts Vern’s future.

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating.  I talked to a former NFL scout about Vern prior to that draft.  The scout was adamant that Vern would be a bust.  I told the guy he was crazy (respectfully of course) and ran through all the numbers and accolades.  The scout just said to wait and see.  He couldn’t explain why, but he knew Vern would bust.   Some NFL guys just have that 6th sense about certain players.

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Specific players readers asked about:

OT Byron Stingily – 2-year LT at Louisville.  Had a great showing at his Pro Day.  Real athletic.  Looks good on tape, not great.  Has good feet.  Shows the potential to be a good pass blocker.  Does need work on how to use his hands.  Good run blocker.  Gets off the ball and works hard to sustain blocks.  Good size at 6-5, 313.  I need to watch him against a top flight pass rusher before I know his true value.  Could be of interest in the middle rounds if we want an athletic player for Mudd to develop.

OL Mike Pouncey – Pouncey played G in the past, but moved to C in 2010.  I liked him a lot better at C.  He never stood out to me as a G.  I do think he’ll be a 1st round pick.  If CB is off the board, Mike could get a look from the Eagles at 23.  I don’t think it is likely to happen, but is possible.  Heck, I’m not sure Mike makes it to pick 23.

CB Ras-I Dowling – Absolutely should be a player of interest for the Eagles.  If Jimmy Smith is gone at 23, the Eagles will move back or take another position.  I don’t see a CB worth 23 aside from the big 3.  Dowling is one of a few guys in the 2nd round who could be of interest.  He has good size and speed.  Senior year was ruined by injuries, but not an ACL or anything that will follow him to the NFL.  He was durable for the other 3 years.  Picked off 8 passes and covered well.  Could be good value in the 2nd round.  Maybe he slides even farther than that, but doesn’t seem likely.

Saturday Stuff

Posted: March 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

My new SB Nation Philly column is posted.  I wrote about Kevin Turner and the price that football players pay.  Very sad to hear how his post-football life has gone.  Really loved him.  My favorite Eagles FB of all time.  Keith Byars was listed as a FB, but let’s be honest.  He was a pass catcher and unique weapon, but not really a FB.

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I watched NFL Network’s Path to the Draft talk about the Eagles.  That’s 10 minutes I’ll never get back.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Brian Baldinger thinks we need to draft OT Gabe Carimi.

Carimi is my favorite OT in the draft.  Very good player and someone you can’t help but like.  I just think Baldinger is a bit obsessive with his point.  He can’t get over the fact that the Eagles benched Winston Justice in the playoff game.  To him, that signals Justice is done.  Baldy is a smart guy.  I’m not sure why he can’t acknowledge that Justice was playing with a less than great knee.  Going up against Clay Matthews when you are 100% is tough.  When you are hurting, it is going to be a bad day.

I won’t be upset at all if the Eagles take Carimi.  I also won’t be ecstatic.  I think he’s a pure OT.  That means he takes over at RT in 2011 or sits.  It would be nice to get some help from the 1st round pick.  I’m sure Baldy thinks Justice will be cut.  I’m not buying that.  He played well in 2009.  The Eagles aren’t the kind of team that gives up on a player they drafted early after one up and down season, especially when there are extenuating circumstances.  Justice never had a stable RG situation and that affected him.  He hurt his knee late in the year and that affected him.

I’m not Justice’s biggest fan.  I didn’t like him prior to the 2006 draft when he was just a prospect from USC.  He’s grown on me a bit as an Eagle, but just isn’t my kind of player.  I do think the Eagles still have hopes for him.  I think 2011 will determine his future, not the poor showing vs the Packers.  How will Justice take to Howard Mudd and his aggressive coaching?  Huge question.

The guys on NFLN did talk about the Eagles possibly taking a DE.  I still have some interest in this, if the right player is on the board.  Ryan Kerrigan is my guy, but might not make it to 23.  Brooks Reed of Arizona would be a real interesting target.

Ashley Fox brought up Miami CB DeMarcus Van Dyke as a possible target.  Yeah, he was the fastest CB at the Combine, but that doesn’t mean he’ll go in the 1st round.  I’ll be shocked if he goes that high.  He’s more of a mid-round target.  Speed is good, but he wasn’t a great player at Miami.  He is as much of a mystery as a prospect.  How did a guy that is fast and 6’1 not play at a higher level for the Hurricanes?