Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coach Added To The Staff

The Eagles recently hired former Dallas DC Brian Stewart. This is obviously a move based on the health of Jim Johnson. It is starting to seem that Jim won't be with the team this year, at least in his normal role. Sean McDermott is the Secondary Coach, but he is currently running the defense. That creates a void on the staff.

Stewart is a natural fit for a few reasons. He was the Secondary Coach for the Chargers prior to going to Dallas to run their defense. Stewart and Andy Reid both were at Northern Arizona together. Stewart played CB and Reid was an Assistant Coach. Finally, Reid and the Eagles love to acquire people who know the NFC East when they can. Stewart knows the Redskins and Giants offenses very well. He also knows the Cowboys inside and out after working there for 2 years.

I had mixed feelings after watching Stewart on Hard Knocks last summer. He seemed like a very bright, emotional guy. My concern was that the players didn't seem to respond to him as a leader of the whole defense. I'm not sure what to make of this. Jerry Jones runs a very loose ship and that undermines the entire coaching staff in Dallas. Stewart could have been a victim of that. The other main possibility is that he might not be the kind of guy who is meant to lead 25 men. Stewart has been a good position coach, but there is a big difference between handling 8-10 players and 25.

Bringing him to Philly to help the defense or run the Secondary is a smart move. He's proven he can handle those jobs. He knows the NFC East. Plus he gets to join a winning environment. There won't be pressure on him to fix anything. He's coming here to be part of the group. Being in a high-character, professional environment will probably freak him out.


Here is an interesting article on Brett Veach, Andy's assistant. I always enjoy reading about the assistant coaches and personnel guys. They do so much work, but get so little attention.

Brett Veach article


Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Notes

My new column is up. I talked about the difficulty of winning a title. I happened to hear a great interview with Jerry West on the way home last week and couldn't help but think of the similarities between his Lakers and our Eagles. Lots of success, but no titles...until late in his career.

Jerry told some great NBA stories. The league was doing a lot to promote itself back then because of the lack of a huge fan base. One year the Lakers and Celtics played 13 exhibition games around America. They played in small towns in Cali. They played in Bangor, Maine. They were all over the place. How weird is that? The teams then faced off 10 times in the season. 23 games between them in a preseason/regular season. Wow. West said he still hates the color green to this day.

Here's the article:


* Cornelius Ingram is back on the field today. Sounds like his knee is fine.

The 3 Kings of (Spadaro, McPherson, and Kent) have up some interesting blurbs in the Bloghead feature. Rather than paraphrase them, here's the link:

The full team passing camp gets underway Tuesday. It will be good to see how the rookies and new guys do there as compared to the post-draft mini-camp. Let's hope the guys show improvement and continue to look good. Training Camp is still 6 or 7 weeks away.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Some Actual News

Sorry for the quiet week. I was busy fighting crime, saving babies, and working on the unified theory. Now that I'm done with those minor tasks, let's talk about the Eagles.

There are a few things actually going on right now:

* DT Amon Gordon ruptured his Achilles and is done for the year. To replace him the Eagles signed UDFA Trevor Jenkins from MTSU. He's 6'1, 287. Had a so-so Senior season, but put up good numbers earlier in his career. Jenkins finished with 26 TFLs.

I hate losing Gordon. He was a longshot to make the team, but I liked him as a practice player. We need guys that will make the players across from them better. Gordon has started in the NFL. Young OL would have learned while playing against him.

* P/K Sam Swank is gone. That's too bad. He was a terrific PK at Wake Forest. Ken Parrish has taken his place. He's a punter.

* TE Cornelius Ingram suffered a knee contusion the other day, but hopefully will be back on the field by Friday. According to Dave Spadaro and what I'm hearing from others, Ingram has looked terrific so far.



This was not a good year for us, to put it mildly. The overall draft wasn't great, but there were some players I coveted. I loved DL Kevin Williams of Oklahoma State. Seeing him in orange/white reminded me of Reggie White in college. I loved the thought of getting Williams to be the LDE of the future. I thought DE Michael Haynes of Penn State was a very good prospect and would make a good Eagle. I had mixed feelings on Jerome McDougle. The first time I ever saw him play was against Penn State early in 2001. He was so quick off the ball that PSU could not deal with him. I was blown away. As good as he was, his sack numbers weren't great. That bugged me. I thought of him as a mid-1st, but wasn't a huge fan.

I loved TE Jason Witten. I thought he was vastly underrated and wasn't sure why. He could block, run, and catch. What else does he need to do? Obviously I didn't know that he was a despicable person who would go behind a quiet, humble WR's back and say mean things just to get more catches.

My favorite player in the whole class was a slow WR named Anquan Boldin. He just blew me away with his performance in the bowl game. Florida State QB Chris Rix was suspended for missing an exam. His backup didn't play very well. Bobby Bowden put Boldin at QB in the middle of the game. Anquan did everything in his power to keep FSU in the game, but they lost 26-13.

Boldin finished the game with 13 runs for 34 yards. As a passer he was 6 of 14 for 78 yards, including a 40-yd TD. He also caught 3 passes for 34 yards, including a TD. There was something about his athletic ability, toughness, competitive spirit, and leadership that just got to me. I put a 1st round grade on Boldin. He ran a 4.7 at the Combine. I didn't care. He was a 1st rounder to me. Great player.

The Eagles lost Hugh Douglas in FA that offseason. We needed a DE. They signed Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to an offer sheet. That would have cost us our 1st rounder. Unfortunately the offer was matched by GB and he stayed up there. Reportedly the Eagles really wanted Haynes. When the Bears took him in the middle of Round 1, the Eagles decided to get aggressive. We used one of our 2nd round picks to move up to the middle of the round and grab McDougle. The trade was very good value. McDougle was good value at that spot. Unfortunately, things just never worked out.

We used our 2nd round pick on LJ Smith. I was not a fan of this move at all. He never impressed me nearly the way that Witten did. I hated passing on Jason to go for LJ. I kept hoping that Boldin would fall to our 2nd round pick. Anquan went 7 spots ahead of us. If only we'd moved up...

WR Billy McMullen in the 3rd and DE Jamaal Green in the 4th were solid picks. I thought McMullen had a lot of potential. OG Jeremy Bridges and SS Norman LeJeune were the final picks. I liked Bridges and he's been in the league since he was picked.

One player I really liked late in the draft was DE/LB Tully Banta-Cain. I thought he was a really good edge rusher and was shocked to see him fall to the 7th round. With McDougle and Green on board there was no way we'd take him. TBC has proven to be a solid role player over the years.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Stuff


You aren't going to believe this. L.J. Smith is currently injured and missing time at the Ravens practices. Shocking. I don't wish ill upon LJ, but that is sorta funny. We'll see if he can stay on the field this year.


Sean Jones is saying all the right things about his status. He's currently the #3 Safety on the team, behind Cover Q...Mikell at SS and Demps at FS. Jones has the best combination of size/speed/skill among the trio. So why's he third? Aside from the fact he's new to the team, Sean hasn't always played up to his ability. He should be one of the better Safeties in the entire league. He's got that kind of talent. You see it at times, but not often enough. I think the Eagles are hoping to motivate him as well as building up Demps confidence. Jones very well could win the job, as he hopes to do. He's not pouting about being a backup. He's biding his time until TC when he can hit and tackle and the coaches can see him in full force.

2002 DRAFT

My favorite high-end player that year was QB Joey Harrington. I absolutely loved him as a college QB. Oregon really broke through as a national power in the 2001 season and I'd followed them closely for several prior years. I thought Harrington was the best player in the class. Oops. I didn't count on a couple of things. First, he'd never really understood adversity. Oregon was solid. He was good in HS. He had a nice family and good upbringing. Then he went to Detroit. He simply wasn't prepared for that kind of struggle. The other problem with Joey is that he wasn't the kind of QB who could carry a team. He needed a strong supporting cast. This isn't an insult. Some guys are like that. Troy Aikman is the best example. When Troy had great weapons, he made them even greater and won titles. Take those weapons away and he wasn't the same guy. John Elway was able to put okay Broncos teams on his back and lead them to the SB. Harrington was similar to Aikman and that showed in his results.

Julius Peppers made me nervous because he went pro off a mediocre season and seemed to be aloof as a person. I wondered if he'd fit in well in the locker room. Obviously he's done well, but is somewhat of a weird duck. I wasn't a huge Ed Reed fan because he was a sloppy tackler. I've adjusted my thinking since then. I covet ballhawks.

Some of my favorite players were Clinton Portis, QB Rohan Davey, S Chris Young, DE Greg White, and DE Raheem Brock. Portis was a steal in the 2nd round. I thought he should have been a 1st. Davey was a great leader and winner at LSU. I wasn't sure if he could start in the NFL, but I loved his intangibles. Young was a great hitter/tackler. He just wasn't athletic. White was an undersized DE who had a great motor and some quickness. Brock impressed the heck out of me at the Blue-Gray game that year. He was a ton of fun to watch. Portis became a star. Brock is a solid DL. The rest had short careers.

Like most people on Earth, I was shocked to see us go CB, S, CB with the first 3 picks. I didn't see that coming a mile away. Lito was a terrific college player so that pick didn't bother me at all. I though Mike Lewis was great value in the 2nd. I liked that pick a lot. Sheldon was a player that had really grown on me at the Senior Bowl. I liked him as well.

Brian Westbrook was a good pick in the 3rd round. I figured he'd make a good backup RB and RS. Glad I was wrong on that. Scott Peters and Freddie Milons were solid picks, value wise. Milons peaked early at 'Bama. I should have factored that in more than I did. Tyreo Harrison seemed like a wasted pick to me. He never stood out when I watched Notre Dame. Hated that pick. We took Brock in the 7th. Great pick. Unfortunately there was a big dispute about his signing bonus and the team ended up letting him go. What a waste.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Around the League

Since things are somewhat quiet on the Eagles front, my article covers league-wide topics.


Back To Previous Drafts


There was no single player I coveted for the Eagles in the 1st round. I really liked the thought of drafting Chris Chambers, the WR from Wisconsin. I thought he had the kind of speed and athletic ability that our offense needed. The Giants had exposed our offense in the 2000 playoffs as really lacking playmakers. While I liked Chambers, I wasn't "in love" with him. He just seemed like the best fit of the guys available in that area. The one player I didn't want was Freddie Mitchell. He had good ability, but he wasn't my cup of tea. I wish my opinion had been dead wrong.

My favorite player in the whole draft was a DE from Ole Miss named Derrick Burgess. I just knew this guy was going to be a hell of a pro player. I was absolutely ecstatic when the Eagles took him with the first pick of the 3rd round. That was heaven on Earth for me. His time in Philly was odd, but he has proven to be a good DE.

Two other guys I really liked were DE DeLawrence Grant and FS James Boyd. Grant was your typical undersized Oregon State defender with a great motor. He played like his life depended on every snap. Okay pro, but nothing special. Boyd was a big time hitter at Penn State. He cleaned plenty of clocks. Outstanding run defender. All he lacked was speed and cover skills. Are those important in the NFL? He was a STer for a few years, but didn't last long.

WR Chad Johnson of Oregon State made me nervous, but I thought his teammate TJ Houshmandzadeh was underrated. Chad had a play in the Fiesta Bowl that year just like DeSean did vs Dallas in the MNF game. Chad dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. There was no replay back then and it was called a TD. That and his odd background made me wonder if he could handle the business of the NFL. TJ was a very good player at OSU, but simply lacked the speed to be more than a mid-to-late pick. I was surprised to see him last as late as the 7th round.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Post-draft Reflections

I reviewed the Giants draft on ScoutsNotebook and gave it pretty high marks. They took several of my favorite guys. This led to some interesting comments on the EMB.

I am a football fan as well as being an Eagles fan. Every year I watch thousands of kids play college football. I choose a handful to really like. I follow those guys in the NFL, whether as Eagles or on other teams. I cheer for them to succeed.

Just because I like certain players does not mean they will have good careers. I get all excited when the Eagles take players I think highly of, but that sword is double-edged. It is incredibly frustrating and depressing to see those players when they fail. My track record is mixed. I thought I'd offer up some comments on players over the years, good and bad, starting with 1999, Big Red's first year in Philly.

1999 - I liked a lot of guys that year. There was not one player I was dying for the Eagles to get. I thought Tim Couch was the best player and a lock to go to Cleveland. He did and things weren't so great. I liked Donovan McNabb a lot, but also liked Daunte Culpepper quite a bit. I was able to see 8 UCF games that year and thought Daunte looked like the real deal. My favorite of all the QBs was Cade McNown of UCLA. That might sound weird now, but Cade was a great college player. USC was a middle of the road team back then. UCLA was the toast of the town and Cade was the big star. Unfortunately, he took a party lifestyle to the NFL instead of a work ethic and flamed out badly in Chicago. Cade and Couch at one point were fighting over a Playboy playmate. Both guys dated her off and on. Both guys failed at the NFL, but they can say they dated a playmate. I have yet to reach that stratosphere. I did once have a stripper throw a dart at me, so that's at least a start in the right direction.

2000 - There were 2 players I coveted for the Eagles. WR Plaxico Burress and DT Cory Simon both fit major needs and both looked like great players. The Eagles went with Simon and things were great for 5 years. After that...Titanic-ville. Plax obviously has been an Eagles-killer for a long time. He would have been a really interesting player for us. You never know how he would have developed in our system, but he would have given Eagles fans the #1 WR they always coveted.

My favorite 2 players were the PSU stars Courtney Brown and Lavarr Arrington. Both guys were can't miss superstars in my mind. Courtney went to the black hole known as the Cleveland Browns where high picks go to disappear. Arrington had a good start to things in DC, but the revolving door on the defense slowed him down and then injuries got the best of him. Those are 2 of the best college players I've ever seen.

There were a few guys I really like down the line. SS Kennoy Kennedy was an impact hitter at Arkansas. He was vicious and the league basically drove him out with fines and threats of suspensions. I loved LB Barrett Green from West Va. He could fly to the ball. They turned out to be solid pros for a few years.

I'll add the next couple of years tomorrow.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Comments on Comments

RE: Deuce McAllister

The Eagles probably aren't going to make any moves until they get to Lehigh and see how everyone looks. If they wanted Deuce at this point, he'd have already gotten a call.

In the Eagles ideal scenario, Westy will bounce back to '06-'07 form with the cleaned up knee. That alone would be huge. Then LeSean would preove to be an effective rookie RB. They'll mix in Leonard Weaver in some 1-back sets. That is three talented runners. 2 of them have similar size/skills sets, but the Eagles can live with that. For a team that is primarily a passing offense that is plenty of firepower on the ground. Kyle Eckel and/or LoBo would get mixed in if they make the team.

If the Eagles get to TC and a problem arises, they will start calling veteran RBs. LeSean could struggle with his blocking. He might struggle with the playbook. Whatever. If there are any major issues that linger into the 2nd week at Lehigh, the Eagles will do something.

If Weaver gets seriously hurt, the team could look for a veteran RB. The Eagles didn't sign him just to be a FB. They will use his running/receiving skills. After the mini-camp Spads was going on and on about how much they got him the ball.

RE: Roster Spots

There is no set formula. The Eagles keep the best 53. They tend to go heavy at OL, DL, and/or DB. Obviously you can't go heavy at all 3 because of the 53-man roster.

Someone made a great point. Sean Jones and Rashad Baker aren't locks to make the team. Each guy signed a 1-year deal. I think Jones would need to look terrible to get cut. That isn't unprecedented. Anyone remember Erik Coleman? Baker is coming here as a pure backup and STer. He could easily get out-played by someone.

Macho Harris was a 5th round pick. He's not a lock to make the roster. However, he's young, cheap, and versatile. Sound like someone the Eagles might like? You betcha. I think Macho would need to really struggle to get the boot. That isn't unprecedented. Anyone remember CJ Gaddis?

Remember that every year we see guys get hurt and/or struggle. Don't get too caught up in what will definitively happen at this point. Too many variables. Random speculation is always welcome, of course.

RE: Extensions for Todd, Sheldon

I don't think Sheldon will get an extra nickel. Depending on what Ike and Hobbs do this year, 2009 could be Sheldon's final season as an Eagle.

Todd isn't likely to get a new deal. He signed an extension in 2007. Since he isn't moving to OT, there is no reason to re-work his deal right now. If he has a good year, the Eagles would be wise to do it next offseason. That would show some flexibility on their part. It would help if Todd didn't go public with any complaints.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Class of 2008

In my new article I wrote about last year's draft class. These guys are entering year 2. We need to see progress from them.

DE Bryan Smith is the player I'm most excited to see. I love pass rushers.

CB Jack "Ike" Ikegwuonou is the player I'm most curious about. Can he compete for a starting job in the future? Is his knee okay?

LT King Dunlap
is also an intriguing guy. So much size and potential.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Positive Signs at RCB and More on the RBs

Paul Domowitch offered some hope in the Sheldon Brown situation. Paul is one of the few Philly sportswriters that I enjoy and respect. He understands the Eagles, the NFL, and football in general. We don't always agree, but I read most of his stuff.

Domo talked to Troy Vincent, who had spoken with Sheldon Brown about his contract situation and the ensuing PR fiasco. It seemed for a while like Sheldon and Joe Banner were in a limbo battle to see who could go lower in the eyes of Eagles fans. My scorecard was 10-8 in favor of Sheldon.

Troy indicates that Sheldon will show up focused and play well this year. He sees this situation as completely different from Lito's situation last year. If you read between the lines, Troy doesn't sound like Lito's #1 fan. Vincent is good friends with Sheldon and thinks he'll be able to set aside the contract and go play good football.

Sheldon had a solid weekend at the mini-camp following the draft, so that's a good sign as well. With him in the mix, we have a deep set of CBs. Sammie, Sheldon, and Hobbs are on the outside. MmmBop is the slot. Ike is the mystery man. That's good, potentially great, CB depth. If Ike's knee turns out okay and he plays like he did at Wisconsin, we'll be sitting pretty.


There is a bit of confusion here. Kyle Eckel was a RB for us in 2008. Spads has referred to him a couple of times this offseason as a FB and a couple as a halfback. So what the heck is he?

The official roster on says FB.

We know this:

RB: 1- Westy ... 2- McCoy ...
FB: 1- Weaver ...

That's it. That's all we know for sure. Eckel and Mailei will battle for the backup FB spot. LoBo, Eldra Buckley, and Walter Mendenhall will battle for the #3 RB job.

Now, because Weaver is a runner and receiver, they could only keep 2 true RBs and think of him as a 3rd option. At that point we'd keep another FB as well.

Really I guess we have Booker, Buckley, Mendenhall, Eckel, and Mailei all battling each other for 1, maybe 2 spots. There's no guarantee we'll keep more than 4 backs (RB/FB total) on the roster.

The real key to all of this is to see who plays well. Eckel is guaranteed nothing because of last year. He's got to prove himself all over again. If LoBo or Buckley or Mailei has a great showing at TC and into the preseason, that player will be the one the coaches try to fit on the roster. Eckel makes the most sense because he's a short yardage runner and good STer, but he'll need to show he can be a solid blocker this summer. I'm not sure Big Red and the coaches will keep a specialty runner like Eckel from the get-go. If Westy is healthy, Andy might rather give him the ball than hand it to a big RB even in short yardage situations.

I guess one other thing to consider is if LeSean struggles at all, the team could be forced to go add a veteran RB to the mix. No matter what, it ought to be an interesting summer in the backfield.


Monday, May 11, 2009

More on the RBs

Last time out I mentioned that we should see improved health from Westy. Last year was a major struggle for him. He hurt his ankle when trying to hurdle Tra in the Steelers game in Week 3. Remember that Tra was on the ground. Brian jumped and as he came down one of his feet hit Tra's leg first. Brian missed the rest of that game and the next week. He then hurt his ribs vs WAS and missed the SF game.

Somewhere along the line his knee became really troublesome. I'm not sure when exactly that was. I was told this offseason that things got so bad they had one person focused solely on rehabbing his knee. Westy got treatment all week long so that he could take the field on Sunday.

Brian's performance was up and down. Still, he always looked a bit off. He lacked the burst and cutting ability that normally make him stand out. His YPC average was down and big plays were missing. Give Westy a lot of credit for getting out there and doing his best, often good enough for us to win.

After the season he had a surgical procedure to clean up the knee. There were some calcium deposits that had built up and they were removed. Westy says the knee feels good. That's very encouraging news. If his knee is better and Westy can get back to the 2006 or '07 level, the offense could really be in great shape.

We won't know for sure how he looks until September when Brian faces real defenses in a live setting. I'm optimistic based on what I've heard and read. The other thing to watch is to see how the knee holds up over time. Is he as good in Week 12 as Week 2?


Lorenzo Booker was a major disappointment in 2008. We all expected him to be a key role player and solid contributor. That never happened.

Things started going down hill when he struggled as a KOR in the preseason. LoBo had 6 returns for 85 yards. Not good. That made him a lot less important. He did have 22 carries and 11 catches in the presason games, but his long run was 17 yards and his long catch was 13 yards. What happened to the big play potential?

Booker had 64 total yards of offense for the 2008 season. 64. I figured he'd have a play that long at some point. His long run and catch was 8 yards. As a rookie for the Dolphins LoBo had 3 plays of 20 or more yards. We know he has the physical potential to be a playmaker.

I hope he and the coaches made some adjustments. The coaches need to figure out how best to use him. Throwing him slants isn't the answer. Work him into the offense with draws and screens. Do something creative. The pressure is on Booker to take advantage of any opportunities he gets. He dropped a couple of passes last year. Can't have that this year. He must make good things happen to keep his spot on the team.

I haven't given up on LoBo, but he's on a short leash this year. He's got to perform well and bring something to the table. Let's hope that will happen with the year of adjustment behind him. LoBo knows the playbook and his teammates. He understands the pressure of playing on a winning team.

Touches should be hard to come by this year. Westy is still the featured player. Leonard Weaver will get runs and catches. LeSean will get runs and catches. LoBo got 26 touches last year. He's gonna need one heck of a preseason to get that many touches this year. Booker has the talent. He's just got to step up to the plate and make things happen. Good things.


Friday, May 8, 2009

The RB Situation

There is mixture of curiosity and concern about the backup running back situation. After my last post, which offered praise for LeSean McCoy, it was pointed out that a lot of praise went Lorenzo Booker's way last spring/summer. That was the last time there was much positive to say about LoBo in 2008. Or 2009 for that matter.

Is this a case of deja vu all over again? Maybe, but the situation is different. LoBo was a terrific role player in college. He showed the potential to be a good role player in his rookie year at Miami. The talk with him last year was about how good a role player he could be for us. At the time, we hoped he would be the primary KOR. We hoped he would be a weapon on screen passes and some draw plays. Maybe mix in a slant. No one expected him to be a starting level RB. Buck was solidly #2.

LeSean is a whole different ball game. Let's just look at his college numbers compared to LoBo

LoBo: 47 games ... 2,389 yds ... 4.8 ypc ... 15 TDs ... 114 catches
LeSean: 25 gms ... 2,816 yds ... 4.8 ypc ... 35 TDs ... 65 catches

LoBo was never a "true" RB even in college. He was a 3rd down back and role player. LeSean carried his offense on his back for two seasons. The coaches praising him is different.

We know McCoy is a gifted RB. We needed to know if he can handle the transition to the NFL. Last weekend was just one of many tests. My comment about him being better than Jim Brown and Barry Sanders was an attempt to make fun of the preseason hype created by me. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

LeSean hasn't taken a real hit or had to memorize large chunks of the playbook. He's in the infantile stage of his career. He's got a long way to go just to reach September.

I'm encouraged because the coaching staff is happy with him. If he stays in their good graces, they will use him and get him the ball. That aids his development. Ryan Moats struggled to get on the good side of the coaches. That kept him buried on the depth chart and likely killed any hopes of having a really good career.

Should LeSean hit the wall and start to really struggle, we can go add a veteran RB. Guys will get cut over the course of the summer. Edgerrin James is on the market now. So is Chris Perry. I think Deuce McAllister remains unsigned. And so on. We have a Pro Bowl starter in place. That's the real key. His knee is much, much better than it was last year. That's great news and the real key to our offense and running game.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

2 Things

My new article is posted. I took a look at the LBs.

Some people view WIL as a weak spot. That's one way to look at the situation based on what we know. However, you can more accurately say that Akeem Jordan is more unknown than an outright weak spot.

Unknown doesn't always mean bad. Who was Marques Colston at this time in 2006? Go back to the legendary Bears of 1985. That defense is one of the greatest of all time. One fact that very few people know...2 starters held out and missed the season. LB Al Harris and DB Todd Bell, future Eagles (as of 1985 I mean...this is getting too Life on Mars-ish), both missed the season. With those guys, that defense wouldn't have been quite the same. I can't imagine it would have gotten better.

Jordan could turn out to be a great fit at WIL. We don't know. I don't think the Eagles are being dumb to stick with him. Jordan started down the stretch and the D played its best football of the season. That isn't a complete coincidence.


I'm very optimistic about LeSean McCoy as our backup RB. He had a good mini-camp. I'm hearing very good things about him. Apparently the coaches are really excited about him. That's a great sign. If they embrace him and aggressively work him into the offense, LeSean will adapt to the NFL that much quicker. He's not the kind of guy to learn by sitting on his hands and watching. Get him the ball and let's see what he can do.

I can say without hyperbole that he is one million times better than Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Darnell Autry rolled into one.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Focus on Hobbs

Sadly, this isn't about Roy Hobbs, the greatest NY Knight of them all. I got stuck writing about Ellis Hobbs, the Eagles new CB.

The Eagles dealt away a pair of 5th round picks on draft weekend to acquire Hobbs from the Patriots. This seemed like a really smart deal at the time. Sheldon Brown was rattling his sabre in the media and the Eagles needed a fall back plan. Getting a starting CB for only a couple of late round picks was great value.

I was busy writing about the draft and didn't have the time to sit down and watch tape on Hobbs. I finally did that this weekend. There are some questions about him. Patriots fans loved to make him the scapegoat when things went bad on defense. Hobbs did get beaten for some big plays and TDs, so it isn't as if he's completely innocent. I also think any Pats fans who thought of Hobbs as a top flight CB were over-valuing him.

Eagles fans wondered why Bill Belichick would deal a starting CB for a couple of late picks. Is the guy a bum or what? There were a lot of circumstances involved. The Pats signed a pair of FA Cornerbacks in Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs. They added Terrence Wheatley in the 2nd round last year and Darius Butler in the 2nd round this year. That gives them a good balance of big and small guys, as well as younger and older guys. Hobbs suddenly became a luxury rather than a necessity. Why not keep him just to be a KOR? The Pats spent a pick last year on Matt Slater and a pick this year on Brandon Tate. Both guys have good RS ability. The other factor at play is that Hobbs was going to be a UFA at the end of the season. Belichick saw there was no chance he was going to keep Hobbs in the future and decided to deal him now. This wasn't a case of him trying to unload some dead weight and shopping him all over the league as we tried to do with Dhani Jones a couple of years ago.

This weekend I watched a full Pats game and parts of 2 others to see what I thought of Hobbs for myself. Here ya go:

Played RCB in all 3 games. Looked at his best pressing and being aggressive. Can play off, but didn't stand out when doing so. Zone awareness is okay. Has pretty good feet. Has solid quickness and agility. I didn't see him jump routes with any regularity. Didn't show anything special in terms of instincts. Didn't give up any big plays or TDs in the action I saw. Gave up a couple of completions. Broke up one pass. Adequate tackler. He will come up and play the run, but doesn't put ballcarriers down with authority. Good blitzer. Comes off the edge quickly, but does stay under control.

Overall, an adequate starter. I'll be interested to see how Hobbs does in our scheme. We're a bit more aggressive up front. That can mean less cover time for the DBs, but can also leave them exposed at times. Hobbs was great value for only a pair of 5th round picks. I'd be comfortable with him starting, but Hobbs isn't a long term solution. I think he is best suited to being a #3 CB / spot starter and KOR.

He isn't as good as Sheldon Brown, although statistically they are very similar players. I looked at the last 2 seasons since that is when Hobbs became a full-time starter.

By the numbers

* Ellis Hobbs *

2007 - 63 tackles, 12 PDs, 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 FF

2008 - 47 tackles, 11 PDs, 3 INTs, 1.5 sacks

He's averaged 27.4 yds per KOR and has 2 TDs.

* Sheldon Brown *

2007 - 68 tackles, 14 PDs, 3 INTs

2008 - 51 tackles, 12 PDs, 1 INT, 1 sack


Saturday, May 2, 2009

More on the Mini-Camp

Dave Spadaro of has been raving about rookie TE Cornelius Ingram. I've only seen a handful of plays on the website, but Ingram looks like a very natural receiver. We knew that was his strength coming out of Florida. The real question with him is how he'll handle playing in-line and blocking. We won't get an answer until the pads go on and the hitting is real. Ingram is off to a good start and that is encouraging. He's running with the #2 offense.


So I go and say Shawn Andrews won't be the RT. Then Andy starts talking about how that might be his spot. And Shawn all but locks himself into RT. Thanks guys.

My thinking was this...Shawn is a guy who missed almost all of 2008. He missed almost all of 2004. He missed time in 2007. He's got some back issues. He's dealing with depression. Stability at OT is crucial. Is it smarter to put him there or to leave him at RG? I prefer him at RG. If he has to miss a game or two it is easier to plug in Nick, Max, or even Mike McGlynn. We've been spoiled by our book end OTs for the last 9 years. We took it for granted that you knew who'd be on the field and that they'd play at a high level. Ask Washington fans about how injury prone OTs can disrupt an offense. RT Jon Jansen missed all of 2004 and virtually all of 2007. He only started 11 games in 2008. LT Chris Samuels is normally very durable, but he missed 4 starts in '08. Having backups take over on the edges puts a lot of pressure on the offense. The TE may have to help out more in pass protection (although Winston Justice would disagree). The RBs might have to chip block more or stay in to help block.

I think Shawn absolutely has the talent to be a stud OT. My comments about him staying at RG are more about circumstances than anything else. Stacy is just over 6'6. He has 35 inch arms. That is the size and length you want in an OT. Stacy just played a full season at RT. If we move Stacy to RG, he'll be on a new team learning a new offense and playing a new position. The Pro Bowl RG will be coming back from an injury and moving to a new position. That's a lot of change and adjusting. I prefer stability.

There is an argument for the move. Stacy is coming off a torn ACL. Playing G would probably put less pressure on his knee because you're in a confined space. Playing OT can require a lot of lateral movement. Also, Shawn may prefer moving outside. If him playing RT will help his back and make him play at a higher level, then that may be the way to go. We have a deep, talented, and versatile group up front. None of these combinations is bad.


RE: deepest OL?

Interesting question. The OL was a major problem from about 1985-1999. Andy Reid made it a focal point and has worked hard to build a quality group. It also helps that his moves have worked out. Buddy Ryan made moves for highly rated players only to see them fail.

The current group may end up being the best and deepest OL. The 2002 group was very good.

LT - Tra Thomas
LG - John Welbourn
OC - Hank Fraley
RG - Jermaine Mayberry
RT - Jon Runyan

Our OTs were in their prime. Welbourn played at a Pro Bowl level, but was a dirty player and, like Runyan, would never get elected because defensive players would never vote for him. Mayberry was a terrific G and underrated player. Fraley was the weak link, but still a capable starter. The bench had guys like Artis Hicks, Bobbie Williams, and Doug Brzezinski.

The 2003 group was also quite good. Most of the same faces. I just think we had more guys at their peak in '02.

RE: Max?

He's recovering from the broken ankle. His bone needs quite a bit of time to heal. Andy is hoping he'll be fine for Training Camp. We'll see. My personal concern is his conditioning. Max was never svelte when he was healthy and working out. He's spent most of the last 6 months off his feet. What kind of shape will he be in?


Friday, May 1, 2009

Draft Review and Mini-Camp Update

I finished my lengthy review:

Mini-Camp Stuff

Here was the OL this morning:

LT Jason Peters
LG Mike McGlynn
OC Jamaal Jackson
RG Nick Cole
RT Shawn Andrews

Apparently Todd Herremans is banged up and not participating.

These 5 guys make up the best OL we can have with Stacy and Todd sidelined. The interesting thing will be what happens when Todd comes back. I assume Nick Cole will stay at RG. If McGlynn looks really good, he could challenge Cole for the top backup job.

Shawn can handle RT. He's not moving there permanently. This is a temp move until his brother comes back.

Macho Inside

Rookie DB Macho Harris played FS. I mentioned this morning that he was an odd fit at CB with all the bodies we had there. Macho has the skills to be a good FS. He could eventually move to CB or play the slot, but for now he's at FS.


Mini-Camp Items to Watch


The first thing I'd like to know is where the rookies are lining up in terms of the depth chart. Is LeSean McCoy the #2 RB? They may have Lorenzo Booker there initially. Obviously where a guy starts out isn't critical, but it can tell you what the coaches are thinking. Shawn Andrews was the starting RG for most of his first mini-camp. They could see right away they wanted him on the field as much as possible.

Jeremy Maclin was the 1st round pick, but McCoy is the more important rookie. Will he be aggressively worked into the offense or will Reid push him along slowly? Maclin may start off buried on the depth chart at receiver. Don't worry. Maclin will have his special package of plays. They want him on the field. He just may have a harder time getting lots of reps because of the guys in front of him.

Cornelius Ingram could be the #2 or #3 TE. I hope he runs well and looks good moving around. I'll feel a lot better about TE if Ingram is able to win the backup job.

I Like Ike...Hopefully

We finally get to see CB Jack Ikegwuonu run. He had 1st round potential before tearing his ACL a year ago. Jack has had plenty of time to let his knee heal and get ready. Now we get to find out how far back he is and whether Jack can ever get back to his previous level of play. He had a rather messy ACL injury. This wasn't your standard situation. There is no guarantee he's going to pan out. We won't know anything definitive about Jack from this weekend, but we'll at least find out something. This guy has been more mysterious than Amelia Earhart, the Lost Colony, who shot JFK, or what happened to Bobby Hoying after 1997.

Right Tackle

Stacy Andrews is still recovering from his ACL injury. I have my doubts about him being ready by September, but we know he won't be on the field this weekend. So who will be the RT? They might line Winston Justice up with the 1's. That would leave Todd and Shawn at their G spots. Mini-camps feature limited contact so Justice would be fine in that situation. I'm still not sure how long he'll be an Eagle. If rookie Fenuki Tupou or 2nd year guy Chris Patrick look good...maybe Winston gets early walking papers.

The Eagles could shuffle the line and move Todd or Shawn to RT. I assume Nick Cole would then take over at the vacated G spot.

No matter what, it is finally good to see the guys moving around on the field.