Monday, June 29, 2009

New Column is Posted


Since things are sorta slow right now I decided to write about Gang Green. This week I covered the defense.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Giant Parallel


This likely is much ado about nothing, but my deviant mind loves to find little nuggets like this. The 2006 Giants finished 8-8 and basically backed into the playoffs. They lost to us in the Wildcard round. That was Tiki Barber's final game.

The 2007 Giants were missing a great player because of the retirement of Barber. They had young guys step up and take his place. The defense went from good to great due to the emergence of Justin Tuck as a special player and because of the coaching of new DC Steve Spagnuolo. They went on to win the SB.

The 2008 Eagles backed into the playoffs, just like the '06 Giants. Both teams lost late in the game and had a very bitter taste to deal with because of that. We now face the challenge of replacing a legend like Brian Dawkins, just like the Giants did with Tiki.

We have a young defensive lineman from Notre Dame that we're all waiting to see breakout. I don't think Victor Abiamiri will become as good as his fellow Domer Justin Tuck, but VA could emerge into a good player and offer significant impact for us.

We also face the prospect of having a new DC this year. Spags was a Jim Johnson disciple and clearly Sean McDermott falls into that same category.

I'm certainly not telling you to make Super Bowl plans because of the interesting comparison, but it just struck me as odd how similar the situations are in several respects.

We will win a Super Bowl sometime between this year and 5 billion years from now when the Sun runs out of fuel and dies.

I hope...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just Some Oddball Thoughts



I was doing some research the other day and came across this revelation: we lost 20 of 23 games between late '97 and early '99. Think about that for a minute. Our beloved Eagles went 3-20 over a period of time. That isn't just bad. That's dreadful.

You have to go back to 1997. We were 6-6-1 and facing the Giants. First place in the division was on the line. Bobby Hoying looked like a franchise QB and there was reason to be happy. Then we lost to the Giants, as well as the final 2 games of the year.

1998 was the most painful year of my Eagles life. We went 3-13 and played some of the worst offense in the last 25 years of the NFL. That season took forever. I watched every minute of every game, but it was like punishment for the most part.

Finally 1999 rolled in. Ray Rhodes was booted out and in came Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. Hope once again was present in Philly. We lost the first 4 games of the year. That got us to 3-20. I was really depressed at that point. Normally I live for Sundays, but I have to tell you that those were some dark days. We beat the Cowboys the next week and then won the next game. At 2-4 I started plotting how we were going to get into the playoffs. Big Red and Donnie Mac saved me. We've lived a pretty charmed life since 2000.

I know one of these days we'll fall on hard times again. I'm not looking forward to that. As frustrated as I am with the lack of a SB title, I do enjoy the success we've had over the last decade. Sundays are much more fun when you actually win a few games.


I watched some highlights recently of our 2006 Wildcard win over the Giants. The NFL Network was kind enough to show the a short special on the game so I could enjoy seeing Tiki's demise.

One play really caught my attention. Some blitzer came in on a delayed attack. Shawn Andrews was our RG at that time. He unloaded on the guy and sent him flying. Beautiful, in the immortal words of Tony Bruno.

We had solid play from Max and Nick at RG for the last year and a half. We didn't have that kind of impact. Shawn brings that kind of power and nastiness when he's on the field. He can physically dominate you and just as importantly...he wants to physically dominate you.

Max is bigger than Shawn. He doesn't always play like it. Max has the power, but he lacks the killer instinct. He's not soft by any means, but he's too content with just doing what is needed on a play. Nick has a nasty streak, but he's not as physically gifted as the other guys. An offensive line is at its best when the 5 guys all pound on defenders and try to physically overwhelm the D. Watch part of the first Giants and Redskins games. Their blockers beat us and wore us down. That has tremendous physical and psychological value.

Shawn is slated to start at RT this year. I'm looking forward to watching him play and seeing what kind of impact he has. Todd Herremans is developing into a good OL, but Andrews is the one guy we know can manhandle his guy. We're also hoping Jason Peters plays that way for us. We need the line to get back to being more than just okay. We need the guys upfront to not just win some battles, but win them decisively.


I continue to hear good things about rookie runner LeSean McCoy. The coaching staff seems absolutely giddy over him. I'm starting to get really excited to see what McCoy can do on the field.

His nickname is Shady, but I'm not sure I like that. I don't know what I'll end up calling him. As I watch games I talk to the TV a lot. The coaches and players need help and I'm there to give it to them. I'll start yelling something at the TV when the preseason games roll around. Maybe I'll stick with Shady or maybe something original will come out. You never know what odd stuff is rolling around in my head. After all:

Joselio Hanson = MmmBop
Asant Samuel = Sammie
Brian Westbrook = Westy

Some names are simple and obvious. Some get a bit odd.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Even More TE Talk


Answering some questions.

Q: Do the Eagles focus on downfield throws to the TEs too much?

No. Brent Celek is the kind of player that can catch the ball short, intermediate, or deep. Ditto that for Ingram. Those guys are accomplished pass catchers coming out of college. LJ was a very good athlete. He had the speed to stretch the middle of the field, but also had the RAC skills to be a very effective receiver on short throws. I think the fact that LJ had such inconsistent hands affected the play calls and the way Donovan thought of him. Our TEs have averaged about 11 yards per reception. That isn't exactly a downfield attack.

Q: Throwing to the TE when he uses positioning to shield the defender and get open... do the Eagles do that enough?

I don't think so. Part of that is on McNabb. He throws some rockets over the middle. That doesn't work well when throwing to a TE with a defender on him. Part of it is on LJ. He's not big and isn't the kind of physical player that does a good job of creating space.

We might see more of these throws in 2009. McNabb is putting better touch on his throws than ever. Also, he'll have taller targets with better hands working the middle.

Q: What are the Eagles trying to do with their TEs?

Andy Reid is a believer in creating matchup problems for the defense. He then wants to attack those spots. Reid is creative with the TEs to see what kind of mismatches he can get. I personally don't think we do a good enough job of working the TE into the offense on a regular basis. I can't fully say if that is McNabb or Reid. We'll have several plays on a drive that feature the TE and then go away from that position for the next couple of drives.

We like to throw to the TEs a lot in the Red Zone. That has produced mixed results the last couple of years. We used to be very strong at this.

Q: How do opponents defend our TEs?

Tough question. I'd have to really go back and study tape to provide an in-depth answer. I don't think many teams have worried about our TEs recently. I certainly haven't seen any special defenses. We have to gameplan for Jason Witten. We have to really pay attention to Chris Cooley on 3rd downs. No one has had to do that with us. Maybe Celek and Ingram can change that.

Q: Could we keep only 2 TEs on the roster and then use the OL to help out? What about Hank Baskett?

Absolutely. We've always used an OL to act as a TE in goal line situations. Alonzo Eephraim had that job in 2003-04. Nick Cole had that job in 2006-07. Last year we put Herremans out at TE and had someone fill in at LG. I can easily see that kind of thing happening because we have such a good looking group of OL. Mike McGlynn could play LG or TE. Todd could go to TE and Max or Nick could play G.

Hank will never play outright TE. He just doesn't have that kind of bulk. Now, we do use him like a TE in some packages. We'll line him up just off the TE's hip. He's almost a wing in that formation. Hank is a very willing blocker, both in pass pro and the run game. He sometimes will stay in to block and other times will release into a pass route. We had him drift out to the flat quite a bit from this set-up recently.

If we do only carry a pair of TEs on the roster, I'd bet that they will definitely carry a guy on the Practice Squad. Reid will want someone he can add to the roster in a hurry and be ready to play if someone gets hurt. Back in 2005 we only had LJ and Stephen Spach on the roster. We carried a TE on the PS. Not exactly murderer's row, but that was LJ's best year.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More on the TEs


We're all pretty comfortable with the 1-2 punch of Brent Celek and Cornelius Ingram. After that, I'm not sure any of us is really happy with the players we have. Veteran Matt Schobel and youngster Eugene Bright are vying for the #3 job.

I'm certainly no fan of Schobel's. I don't hate the guy, although I may have once or twice joked that he should be used as a solar panel on a shuttle mission (tighten the screws so he can't get away!!!). I guess I'm an old school fan. I expect my players to actually play hard and be good, play hard and suck, or tease me with big time plays a few times a year. The first group is star players. The next group is effort guys. The final group are the teases. We keep waiting for them to break through because of some good plays, but they never do (Billy McMullen and Ryan Moats would be good examples).

Schobel is in his own category. He doesn't block or show much effort. He has alligator arms and drops balls that he should catch. He doesn't play on STs with any consistency. I have no idea why the hell Andy Reid keeps him around. I understand the first 3 years. Big Red hoped he'd finally become the solid backup we expected when we signed him. The team was patient with Darren Howard and that turned out to be great. The problem is that Schobel has basically regressed each year. He might be a terrific practice player. That is the only reason I can think that Reid is keeping him around at this point. I would have jettisoned him in February and gone after another veteran to compete for the #3 job. I hate the fact that Matt still sits on our roster.

Initially I didn't like the addition of Eugene Bright. That seemed like a solid addition for a team that was deep at TE, but not us. After following him this spring I feel a sense of hope that he could develop into a solid backup. I don't think that will be in 2009. I get the feeling Bright needs some Practice Squad experience. I do think he was brought here because the team is fascinated by his potential. Purdue always has athletic guys at DE and LB. Bright was a good athlete, but not good enough to be an edge rusher. Trying him at TE makes sense. Bright did play some TE in high school. His time at DE can also help. He has a sense of how to block from his time spent defending the run. Both players have similar goals on a run. The defender wants to engage the blocker and take control. The blocker wants to engage the defender and take control. Whether Bright can catch the ball is yet to be seen. I do get the feeling he could be a good STs player. He played some on STs at Purdue.

There is one possibility that many of us are overlooking. Reid could be looking to only carry 2 TEs on the roster. We did that in 2005. He might sense that we should go heavy at RB and WR and save a spot at TE since we haven't used the 3rd guy very much recently. If that is what Big Red has in mind, then keeping Schobel around is fine. He does know the playbook and can be a useful practice body this summer.

The TE position has been sorta strange during the Reid era. He signed Jamie Asher to be the guy back in 1999, but an ankle injury ruined that project before it really ever got started. Reid then turned to Chad Lewis. He added Jeff Thomason to be a good role player for a while. Jeff was a blocker and STs guy that came up big on play-action passes in the Red Zone. We drafted Tony Stewart in 2001, but he didn't last long. We drafted L.J. Smith in 2003 to add athletic ability to the mix. In 2005 we signed Stephen Spach to develop into a backup TE. He was mostly a blocker. Then came the signing of Schobel in 2006 and the drafting of Celek in 2007.

As you can see we've added athletes, role players, and blockers (somewhat). There is no precise trend. AR has kept a very fluid style when it comes to adding backup or developmental TEs. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. I prefer when a coach has a definite style of player he wants.

I'm a believer that there should always be some sense of balance. We have 2 pass catchers in Celek and Ingram. In my mind the #3 TE should absolutely be a blocker and STs player or a guy who is "complete". That would be someone who is an okay blocker and okay receiver, but doesn't stand out in either area. As I mentioned earlier, Schobel is pretty much incomplete. Bright could be a good blocker, but he is still a project.


The team hasn't gone to Training Camp yet so it is still early enough to add another player. Unfortunately I don't think that will happen. Reid hasn't shown any desire to add a different TE. There also aren't great players available.

I saw that rookie Nick Walker was recently cut. I'd be interested in bringing in a guy like him, but at the same time...when you get cut in June that doesn't speak well of your pro potential.

There are not any compelling free agents. Could the Eagles target someone on another team that could get cut? That is possible. One reader asked about whether the Cardinals could be a team to watch. They have several guys. Unfortunately one of them is Stephen Spach, who tore his ACL in the playoffs. That takes him out of the mix. Ben Patrick is facing a 4-game suspension. That probably takes him out of the mix.

I haven't studied the rosters recently to see what players might get cut. Like I said earlier, I'm just not sure Reid is really looking. I'll certainly ask around and see if I hear anything about the team looking for help at the position. Andy's policy is to always keep an eye for talent, but is he looking to improve at the #3 TE? I am not sure. He should be.


Someone else wanted to know about how we use the TE position. That's changed quite a bit over the years. Chad Lewis was more of a short target. We really worked him over the middle of the field. L.J. Smith was used more creatively. We lined him up wide. We threw the corner route to him a fair amount (throw to the sideline - 15 yards downfield). We threw him TE screens.

Brent Celek will be a mix of the two. He's built more like Lewis, but Smith expanded the playbook and a lot of that stuff will stay in the mix. The interesting player will be Ingram. He's got the skills to do just about anything. I'm really curious to see how he develops.

As far as body types and styles...Reid has shown interest in a ton of draft prospects. He's been interested in guys like Dustin Keller (6'2, 235) and Rodney Hannah (6'6, 260). Reid fell in love with LJ who was 6'3, 255 coming out of college. I was told the team coveted Ingram back in March. I didn't hear if that was Reid or someone else. He goes 6'4, 245. These guys are all different sizes. The one thing we know is that the Eagles prefer guys that can catch the ball and have some athletic ability. They'll look at a blocker, but it has to be someone they really like. And even then it will usually be as a UDFA.

I don't know if I answered all the questions. Work got in the way of this post a couple of times so I struggled to keep a good flow going. Let me know if there is anything that still should get touched on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

TE Talk


My column this week is about the TE situation. I'm glad L.J. Smith is history and I'm excited about Brent Celek and Cornelius Ingram. I didn't deal much with the #3 spot. I didn't think Dave Spadaro would want me ranting about how Matt Schobel must go. But he must!!!


Right now we're at the prognostication stage of things. We're guessing and predicting what will happen. We don't know.

I find it hard to believe that Reid will ever fully change his ways, but he did go get a fullback and some good run blockers. That isn't an accident. I tend to think that he's doing what he says...just trying to help the running game be more efficient. Go get some blockers and you can run 20 times for 100 yards instead of 25 times. Obviously Andy doesn't see the correlation between rushing attempts and winning that so many people do. He's more focused on the yards, big plays (runs of 15+) and TDs.

I would love to talk to that man some day. He is able to beat down broadcasters with a couple of stats, but they don't know how to argue well enough. I'd rip Big Red to shreds with my insight. He'd then have the Eagles Secret Police take me to a prison in Eastern Europe. So for now I'll have to let Big Red do things his way. I don't think I'm good prison material.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Readers' Comments

RE: OL depth chart

As I said in that post, that listing is strictly in terms of where guys are slotted on paper. Reid and Castillo will put the 5 best OL on the field. They don't care who is slotted where exactly. The best players will be used. King Dunlap is the #2 LT for now, but clearly Shawn or Todd would take that spot in an actual game.

RE: Weaver as the #3 RB

I absolutely agree with this point. Leonard is the starting Fullback, but he will get used as the running back a decent amount. I think he could be used mostly in 1-back sets.

I'm not sure what will happen in short yardage situations. Eckel did a good job for us last year. Weaver could stay at FB and Eckel could be the runner. It's also possible Eckel could block for Weaver. Heck, we don't even know that Eckel will make this year's team.

Weaver didn't get a ton of carries in short yardage sets in Seattle. They used other guys. That doesn't mean he can't do it. There's just no definitive track record. We might get some hints at TC and in the preseason games, but won't really know Big Red's plans until the season gets here.

RE: Abiamiri and LDE

Victor's career won't be completely defined by the 2009 season. He could have another so-so year and still pan out in the future. The problem is that the Eagles are counting on him as the LDE of the future. If he doesn't show he's got "it" this year, the team will bring in another player to challenge him next offseason. That would make it tougher on Abiamiri to succeed.

Victor can play the run well. He can rush the passer from LDT. We need to see 2 main things this year: 1. he must stay healthy 2. he must show he can rush the passer from LDE. The season will be a success for him if he proves to be an effective starter. If he plays well, that would be a bonus. I'm not holding him to an unfair standard. Give me 5 sacks from DE and plays most of the LDE snaps and I'll be happy.

Why is LDE different? Most teams still line the TE up on the right side of the offense, across from the LDE. The RT and TE then double the LDE, at least initially, on run plays. Sometimes the TE will just downblock if the DE is lined up to the inside. This puts a lot of pressure on the LDE. He's got to deal with an extra blocker a lot of the time. He has a lot of runs come his way. That means battling blockers and dealing with runners as they come at you. That requires strength, leverage, and proper technique.

The RDE has more space to work with. He gets to fly off the edge. He also chases plays from behind more than the LDE, which obviously is all about speed and hustle. RDE is more of a pass rushing position. The LDE has to play run first most of the time. There is also the matter of the TE lining up to his side and forcing him to move further out. That can give the OT extra time to get set on pass plays. The main advantage to playing LDE is that you face the RT, who normally isn't as talented as the LT.

RE: Justice

Andy really liked him coming out of USC. He loved the guy's athletic ability. You don't find a ton of guys with Winston's physical gifts. Andy has been hesitant to give up on him because he keeps hoping the light goes on. I think this is the year that Andy will finally say enough is enough and send him packing. Justice would need to play unbelievably well to have a shot. McDougle was terrific last summer and still got his walking papers. Justice has a gigantic uphill battle.

RE: LoBo

I've said this a few times, but I just don't know what to make of Mr. Booker. He looked so good last year prior to August that we were all excited. He fizzled out in the preseason and did nothing in the regular season.

He's got the talent to be a good rotational RB. I'm not completely giving up on him. I just think he's got an uphill battle because of STs. If he were a good gunner or KOR that would help his cause quite a bit.

TSOP is right to say that Ted Daisher will have a lot to do with Booker's future. LoBo has got to shine on STs in the preseason. They don't go live up at Lehigh for fear of injuries. LoBo has got to do something to standout and show he can contribute if used on STs. It would also help his cause to make some plays on offense.

Last summer LoBo had 22 carries for 85 yards (long of 17). He had 11 catches for 62 yards (long of 13). I know lousy blocking or QB play can hurt stats, but Booker has to show more big play ability. He needs a couple of plays that go 20+. He's got that kind of speed and quickness. We better see it in August or he will be on the way out.

RE: Will Reid run more?

Tough, tough question. He is and will always be a pass-first coach. That won't change. However, the running game is more complex than many people realize.

Andy is an incredibly patient man. He will wait and wait and wait some more. This is true of personnel guys and assistant coaches. This is true of young players and newly acquired veterans. This is true of just about everything. There is one exception.

Andy can't stand a bad running game.

Parcells and his crew will tell you that every run adds up. It's like water on limestone in caves. Each drop seems useless, but over time they create stalagtites and stalagmites. You run all game long to wear down the defense in the 4th quarter. That means putting up with some 3 & outs and some crappy drives.

Andy likes an explosive passing offense and an efficient running offense. This is the Bill Walsh style. The difference is that Walsh came from an era of balance offense and really did run the ball more than people think. Andy is from the new era where passing is the way to go. That slants the offense to a 60/40 situation all too often. We'd all love 50/50, but would settle for anything close to 55/45. That is a reasonable pass/run ratio for a guy that prefers to throw the ball.

This season the pieces are in place for the running game to be more efficient. That means Reid should be more comfortable with the running game and may in fact call a few more plays. It won't be as much as we like, but we should see more running. Last year we finished 28th on the ground. That's simply unacceptable. We should be somewhere in the 15 to 20 range, depending on circumstances.

Andy fed Westy the ball a lot in 2006 and '07. The OL played well, especially in '06. This year's OL has a chance to be very good. If Weaver is solid and the TEs can be effective, the running game could be good enough that Andy will go to it more than we're used to. It would also help if we have some leads to protect. Don't look for true balance, but we can at least hope for less of a one-sided offense.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Pass Rush and More On Weaver

Pt.3 of my column is now posted. I talked about the need to improve the pass rush and how that might happen.


A poster named dawkins20 on the EMB put together a clip of Leonard Weaver in action.

You can see his talent and versatility in these highlights.

I still have issues with him as a lead blocker. You can see that he lacks pop in these clips. He'll engage the defender, but doesn't roll his hips and drive through the target. He will stick with a block and you can see how that helps break a couple of runs. Weaver also uses proper positioning on most of the plays. Sometimes that can make a huge difference in the success of the run.

His pass blocking and blitz pickup is good. Maybe very good. Weaver was a TE in college. You can see that he's used to blocking like that, being set and taking on a defender. Weaver will be a good improvement over Klecko in pass blocking.

As a runner and receiver his ability is pretty obvious. He looks like a RB, not a big ol' FB out there just rumbling along. He has 2 career runs of 20+ yards. He has 3 career catches of 40+ yards. Those are crazy numbers for a young FB. Jon Ritchie never had a run go 20 yards or a reception go for 40. He didn't have many rushing attempts, but did catch 150 passes.

Weaver averages 4.4 ypc for his career. He averages almost 12 yds per reception. That's impressive. The one downside would be that he's got only 1 career rushing TD. I think that stat has more to do with Mike Holmgren feeding the ball to the RB around the goal line, but I still am surprised that Weaver only has the one TD.

He's a definite upgrade at FB. My only question is how good of a lead blocker he will be for us. If Weaver can at least be solid in that area, we'll be a much better running team.

I have been told that the Eagles wanted Weaver in part because he can run and catch. He will get touches here and not just be a lead blocker. Weaver's agent indicated that one reason he came to Philly was because he would get touches. He will be part of the offense. How many? That's hard to say at this point, but if we can get him the ball about 80 times this year that would be good. That's 2 carries and 3 catches per game. Or vice-versa.

A poster named Nocturnal came up with this clip. The 2nd play is a good block of Takeo Spikes on an inside run. The overall package is Julius Jones, but obviously his best runs came in part because of good blocks.



Sunday, June 14, 2009

OL Depth Chart - for now

Someone asked about the OL yesterday. There are a lot of bodies right now. Not all will make it, obviously. Let's take a look at the way things probably stack up right now.

LT - Jason Peters ..... King Dunlap ..... Chris Patrick

LG - Todd Herremans ... Mike McGlynn .... Mike Gibson

OC - Jamaal Jackson ... Nick Cole ....... Dallas Reynolds

RG - Stacy Andrews .... Max Jean-Gilles .. Paul Fanaika

RT - Shawn Andrews .... Fenuki Tupou ..... Winston Justice

Obviously this is just the way the top 15 guys spread out. If Max got hurt, Nick would take over his spot, not the rookie.

I think Justice is a real long shot to make the team. He's got to play so well they feel like they can't cut him. I just don't see that happening.

Fanaika is a long shot as well. He could make the Practice Squad, but his pass blocking is an area that will need work.

Reynolds is a guy I'm not sure about. The numbers don't work in his favor, but he is an interesting player. He has played LT and C. He's got size and experience. He could be a camp body or legit PS target.

Gibson impressed last year in limited time. He just has to deal with being the 11th best OL in a group that will keep 9 or 10.

Patrick is another guy I'm not sure of. He was with the team last year. They had more than just passing interest in him. That said, this is a deeper group. Patrick could win a roster spot if he can show that he could be the #3 OT. He's got Dunlap and Tupou to deal with, but Patrick is more experienced that either of those guys. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him play well and take one of their jobs.

Dunlap showed a lot of potential last year. Now he has to play even better. His potential bought him a season, but that wasn't enough to guarantee him a roster spot this year. He's got to be smoother in terms of pass protection and more physical as a run blocker.

Tupou has to make the adjustment from college to the NFL and from LT to RT. I'm not his biggest fan, but the kid has the potential to make the team as a backup initially. I'd be nervous about him on the field protecting McNabb. To be fair, I haven't seen him as an Eagle. Pro coaching can make a big difference. We'll see how he does in Training Camp and the preseason.

This group has very good potential. If they stay healthy, this could be the best set of blockers in the Reid/McNabb era. That could make a big difference for the skill guys.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another Article


I wrote about the offensive line and how it needed to be upgraded from last year. I mentioned re-watching the Giants playoff game the other day. You could really see in that game that the line had to be addressed. There was one goal line play where Westy wanted to try and jump over the pile for a TD. Unfortunately Tra Thomas was pushed backward and Westy hit him before he could really launch himself. I don't see that happening with Jason Peters.


Former Eagle James Thrash is probably done. The Redskins released him after he failed his physical.

I know a lot of people hated him and loved to refer to him as Trash. James was a very good guy, but he wasn't meant to be a starting WR on a Super Bowl team. We found that out the hard way. He was good enough for us to have a lot of success, but he couldn't deliver in January. I really enjoyed watching him early on (2001), but he never developed. What you saw was what you got. It almost seemed like he regressed.

Interesting trivia question for you to use on people. What Eagles WR has the most rushing yards in the last 25 years? James Thrash - 235 yards. DeSean will break that in a few years, but right now no one else is close.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Busy Friday


Donovan McNabb got some extra cheese from Jeff Lurie yesterday. Donnie will get an extra $5M or so over the last 2 years of his deal. This would seem to be a good thing. It keeps Donnie happy, which we want. It doesn't hurt any other players on the team. The Eagles also show players that if you play at a high level we will keep an open mind. We saw that with Westy last year.

Mike Florio of PFT is confused by the move since the Eagles didn't get another year added to the contract. He sees it as the Eagles giving away money for nothing and McNabb being a lame duck QB. I've read Florio's site since the week it began. I'm a big fan of his, but he doesn't get the Eagles way of doing things. He never has.

Donovan will turn 33 this November. He'll be 34 when his deal is over. We don't know what kind of a player he'll be at that point. He could still be an above average starter or Donnie could have started to decline. The Eagles may not want Donovan for the 2011 season. If they do, they can work on a deal at that point.

We also don't know how long Donnie wants to play. He's made some comments about not wanting to stick around forever. He loves his wife and kids and wants to be able to enjoy them. At the end of his current deal, McNabb will have 12 years under his belt. That's a lot of football, especially in a high pressure town like Philly.

The only way Donovan is truly a lame duck player is if he really struggles during the 2010 season. At that point he could be benched. I don't think either he or the Eagles anticipate him struggling. After 2010 you step back and decide whether to keep him or move on. And he's got to decide whether he wants to play or ride off into the sunset.

One thing Joe Banner mentioned was the uncertainty with the future of the CBA. I'm not sure what the Rapid City Thrillers have to do with anything. Oh wait...Joe probably meant the collective bargaining agreement and not the Continental Basketball Association. I'm not sure if Joe is throwing the CBA situation out there as an excuse to not wanting to commit longer to Donnie or if he's really uncertain about what the salary landscape will be at that point and this is a legit reason.

How will this affect Kevin Kolb? Everything I hear is that the Eagles still love him and see him as the future. The problem is that his deal will be up after 2010. There is a strong chance he'll have very little experience at that point. What kind of a deal do the Eagles give him? Joe Banner is great with contracts and will figure out something. Let's just hope Kevin is a patient man. We need to get him on the phone with Danny White, Steve Young, and Aaron Rodgers. Those guys had to bide their time behind legends, but all played well when they hit the field.


I spoke highly of RB Walter Mendenhall after he was signed as a UDFA. I liked his size, speed, and skill set. Unfortunately he was cut yesterday as the Eagles trimmed the roster. I was really hoping to see him at Training Camp or in a preseason game. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Also gone are DT Trevor Jenkins and QB Adam DiMichele. I didn't think either one of those guys had much of a shot.


I went back last night and watched a good portion of our playoff win over the Giants. I had forgotten just how exciting those 2 4th down stops in the 4th quarter were. Great plays. What a joyous day that was.

You could see that as good as we were the team still was off a bit. In order to be a championship team you need to be great at something. We weren't. I hope that guys like Akeem Jordan, Victor Abiamiri, Brodrick Bunkley, Stewart Bradley, Quintin Demps, and Chris Gocong can all take a step forward. All those guys are ascending players with good ability. If they can show progress this year, we could have a great defense.

The improved OL and a healthy Westbrook will hopefully have a big impact on the offense.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Article + Max Wants a New Deal

My column this week got split into 3 parts. The first is now posted. I took a look at some of last year's weaknesses and how they should play out this year. First up, the running game.


Max Jean-Gilles wants a new deal. His contract is up at the end of the season and he'd like an extension. I hope Joe Banner's response was something along the lines of "I'll get right on that as soon as I finish watching today's episode of The Bold and The Beautiful".

Max isn't a bad player. He's just not anything special. And he's not projected to be a starter this year. That didn't stop him from hiring Drew "I didn't lie, I simply altered the truth" Rosenhaus.

Think about our G situation. Let's assume Stacy will play there this year and possibly into the future.

LG: Todd / Mike M.
RG: Stacy / N. Cole

That's a solid foursome without factoring in Max. Does he expect to be paid like a starter? Does he think he'll get Todd or Stacy's job? I just don't see his play at this point. If he "only" wants backup money, the team might be willing to do something. I get the feeling that Max is looking for more than that. If so, just hope you get on the field enough this year to show your wares. And play better than you did in 2008. You have to earn a contract with good play.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rookie Signings & Other Items


For once this has nothing to do with getting a great tattoo (I'll let you decide if that is a contradiction in terms). The Eagles have quickly gotten most of the draft picks under contract. The lower round guys signed recently. Yesterday TE Corenlius Ingram signed his deal. That leaves only Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy unsigned.

It is important for McCoy and Ingram to not miss any time. Those guys will be key backups/role players this season. It would be great to have Maclin in for all of Training Camp as well.


CB Asante Samuel decided to skip this week's workouts and go home to work on his own. I don't see that as a big deal at all. He was here last week for some stuff. He was at the mini-camp. He's signed, happy, and a good player. I don't mind him missing a voluntary set of OTAs.

The only real downside is that the WRs don't get to work against our best CB. I don't see that as all that important, though. We have a veteran set of WRs aside from Maclin. They'll have plenty of time to face Sammie up at Lehigh.

The benefit of Sammie's absence is that young CBs get more reps. Dimitri Patterson took a lot of his reps. Good. We need to see how much we like comrade Patterson. I'm not sure if Jack Ikegwuonu has gotten extra reps or not. He had a court date moved and I'm not sure if he was there or his lawyer did that while Jack stayed here.


Some readers had good comments about the DL and the pass rush on Tuesday. Trent Cole is the only starting DL that gets consistent pressure. That has to change. Simple as that.

Victor Abiamiri can be the answer at LDE. He's got good size at 6'3, 280-285 and is a strong guy. He has the athletic ability to bring some heat off the edge. Abiamiri has proven to be a good run defender, but not much of a pass rusher so far. He's got 2 career sacks. That won't cut it this year. VA has got to be a 6-8 sack guy.

Juqua Parker has a couple of great games each year, then quietly fades. He's clearly not the answer. Chris Clemons is a good pass rusher, but is meant to be a backup and not a starter.

The DTs must improve as well. Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley know how to stop the run. Patt and Bunk now must get to the QB more often. Bunk has the strength and athletic ability to be a good pass rusher. Patt has the motor to make effort plays. Both guys have adjusted as the scheme has changed from a 1-gap attack to a 2-gap style of play. That's huge. No longer can you simply shoot your gap and find the ball. Now you must control 2 gaps, find the ball, and then work upfield. This all happens inside of 3 seconds.

I love our depth and rotational players, but the starters must be able to get consistent pressure. Bunk and VA are the guys who can offer the biggest impact. I love Trent Cole to death, but he's simply not the kind of impact rusher that can do it all by himself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday Update


The Eagles had Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon in for a visit. I watched tape of him and posted some notes:

Would he make sense for the Eagles? Very possible. Jarmon played LDE at UK. He would come here to help the rotation at LDE. Jarmon goes about 6'3, 275. That's the kind of size the Eagles like in a LDE, if not a bit bigger. Juqua Parker is more like 6'2, 250. The thought of adding a younger, bigger player would be of serious interest. Unfortunately Jarmon isn't a great pass rusher or athlete.

If the Eagles decide to spend a pick on him, they would have to deal Parker. There are already 5 DEs set (Cole, Howard, Smith, Abiamiri, and Clemons). You can carry 6, but not 7.

I know the Eagles wanted to add a LDE to the mix. Jarmon could be had at a good price. Josh Gaines was signed as a UDFA, but has little shot to make the team and isn't even likely to make the Practice Squad. Jarmon would be a legit roster prospect and near lock for the PS (assuming he played up to his ability). I think the Eagles would value Jarmon as a 5th or 6th. I don't see him being a target for us before that.

Some people will see that Jarmon is visiting Philly as a sign the team likes him a lot. Not so. Eagles scouts normally gather info on players all Fall long. The coaches meet prospects at the Senior Bowl, Combine, and/or Pro Days. Jarmon won't be able to go through that process. The Eagles brought him in for a close look to see if in fact they are interested. We'll see if they are.


Chris McPherson caught my eye with this fact in a recent blurb. The Eagles only had 3 sacks in the postseason. The defense had some good moments, but that stat is one reason I'm so interested to see how Abiamiri plays this summer. We've got to have a more consistent pass rush. LDE must be more productive. The starting DTs also need to get more pressure this year.


There was a good article in the Daily News recently about the relationship between Joe Banner and Andy Reid. People for years have been speculating that they don't get along when that just isn't the case. Do they agree 100% of the time? No. No two executives agree all the time. Reid is on board with Banner's ideas of how to do things financially. Banner is on board with Reid's idea of how a team should be built. They both believe in building through the draft and keeping plenty of youth on the team.

Here's the link:

Reid / Banner


Monday, June 8, 2009

Misc Monday

Here's an interesting development. The Eagles are meeting with and checking out Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon. He was ruled ineligible for 2009 by the NCAA and is now going to be in the Supplemental Draft. Jarmon took a supplement this spring that was on the banned list by the NCAA. He got it at a generic nutrition store and didn't think about it being a problem. When he did tell the UK staff they had to report the issue to the NCAA. Jarmon, who apparently has never been in trouble, was ruled ineligible for the season, ending his college career. This is one of those times when you shake your head. Here's a good kid who made an innocent mistake and is getting a huge penalty.

Other programs have athletes who haven't broken a specific NCAA rule, but are troubled guys. Jared Allen once drove into an old folks home when he was drunk. Tennessee just recruited a convicted rapist. USC had a player being investigated for rape several years ago. He simply transferred. Fresno State had a basketball player once rob someone with a Samurai sword. None of these guys got in trouble with the NCAA. Jarmon popped pills he bought at the mall for 2 weeks and lost his Senior season. Crazy.

Jarmon is 6'3, 279. He is experienced and productive. He finished his career with 17.5 sacks, 29.5 TFLs, and 5 forced fumbles. He's solid athletically. It was my understanding that the Eagles wanted to bring in a LDE this year to push Abiamiri. They considered taking Robert Ayers in the 1st round, but he went off the board just before the Eagles took Jeremy Maclin. Jarmon could be a guy they will put in a bid for. I haven't watched his tape yet, but I'll do that and will post notes.


RE: Return of MJG

Max did practice some last week. That is a good sign. I'm not Max's biggest fan, but I certainly want all the players to be healthy and available. How much he was able to do...I'm not sure. Max is a really big man and he's not had a lot of time to put weight on that ankle bone and get it back to full speed. I'll check around and see if anyone can give me an update on his status.

RE: another RB

Some people still want a veteran added. That's fine. We've all got our ideas of how things should be done. If you'll carefully read my comments I said the team should hold pat for now. See what LoBo and LeSean can do. If they look really good, then sticking with them makes sense. If either guy leaves you at all concerned, then start looking around the league and making contingency plans. Each of them should be given a week of TC to show what they can do in a live-hitting environment. If the players are struggling at all, go add a veteran.

Adding an extra RB right now would only clog the situation. He'd need extra reps to try and learn the offense. We've already got one very talented player in McCoy. Let's give him those reps and see what he can do. At one point, I thought LeSean was a Top 15 kind of player.

The other thing I can't stress enough is to remember what Westy had done. His ankle was sore. He had a procedure to alleviate the problem. This wasn't a torn ligament or some tricky broken bone that physically couldn't function. I think we're all concerned by Westy having surgery, but I'm not worried about it. I was worried with Donovan coming off ACL surgery. We know those players aren't the same the next season. Cleaning up bone spurs isn't comparable to something like that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Mayans Should Have Predicted This!!!

Forget about the end of the world, the Mayans should have warned us of the chaos of Brian Westbrook getting surgery in June. The horror. The horror. I happened by NFL Live on ESPN yesterday and boy are those guys desperate for a big story. You'd think Westy had a torn ACL in one leg and the other foot in the grave. Yikes.

SalPal was actually the calmest of the group, if you can believe that. The studio host, Herm Edwards, and Cris Carter all talked about gloom and doom stuff. Maybe they were still in shock from watching Earth 2100. Or seeing those paparazzi picks of Tori Spelling. Neither offers much hope for humanity.

Anyway. All the talking heads are going on and on about the Eagles minus Westbrook. No one seems to want to discuss the timeline of the situation. It is early June. Training Camp is more than 6 weeks away. The season is another month after that. Unless my math is awful, that leaves plenty of time for Westy to rehab and return to the team for the regular season.

The surgery is being done to clean out bone spurs, not surgically repair a non-functioning ankle. The goal is to relieve pain. Cris Carter talked about having the procedure done in the middle of his career. He said it allowed him to play another 6 or 7 years. Instead of focusing on that positive angle he went to worrying about Westy's conditioning. Huh? Westy isn't a 25-carry guy. He doesn't need a bunch of TC plays to get his body right for the pounding of the season.

Herm chimed in that Andy might use Westy just as a 3rd down back when he returns. Again...huh? Brian should be back before the start of the season, possibly in the middle of TC. He should be fine as the starting RB. If the ankle doesn't heal properly, that's another story. These guys weren't talking about that. They just focused on the Eagles without Westy.

Big Red said the team won't make a move at this time. Nor should they. Right now the Eagles need to decide what they think of Lorenzo Booker and they need to see how LeSean McCoy performs. Is LoBo purely a backup to them? He's running with the starters right now, but don't read too much into that. This is practice. One of the keys to good practice is knowing the playbook and executing the play correctly. LoBo has been here a year. He knows the plays and how to practice. Don't think that just because he's in there now means McCoy won't pass him in August or September.

We need McCoy to show the coaches that he can handle the mental side of playing a lot. He needs to have a good feel for the playbook. He needs to be an effective blocker. He needs to be reliable during the week and in games. That's a tall order, but one that LeSean can handle.

I know some people want the Eagles to go sign a veteran RB. Patience. The goal is to have a 1-2 punch of Westy and McCoy. The team will monitor Brian's ankle on a very regular basis to see how well it rehabs. The coaches will be watching McCoy with an electron microscope to see if they think he's ready. If either situation starts to look shaky, the Eagles will make a move and go sign someone. I don't see that happening before August 5th. That would give Westy 2 months of rehab and it will give McCoy OTA time and a week of TC to show the team what he can do. At that point you could still sign a veteran and have 3 to 4 weeks to get him ready for the season.

The x-factor at RB is going to be Leonard Weaver. He isn't just a FB. One of the reasons he came to Philly was to have the chance to get carries and catches. Weaver is 6'0, 242. He has some speed, quickness, and elusiveness. He's not meant to be a featured runner, but he could handle 80 or so carries in a year. Weaver only has 80 carries in his career, but that's because Mike Holmgren believes in feeding the ball to his primary tailback (what a novel idea). Weaver has the ability to handle 5-8 carries in a game and to be an effective runner. With Westy health, Weaver will be lucky to average 4 carries a game. If Westy does miss some time, Weaver could really benefit.

I think at that point Reid would consider RB by committee with McCoy, Booker, and Weaver as the key guys. You could squeeze 20-25 carries out of that group and still have a solid offense.

Let's talk about adding a RB. Edgerrin James isn't coming here. He wants to go somewhere and be fed the ball. That's not gonna happen here. Deuce McAllister still has a suspension looming over his head. We don't want a guy to join the team in early October. Warrick Dunn makes some sense. He can be a workhorse or role player. He can catch the ball and he is a willing blocker. Dunn seems like the logical choice of this group. Still, there isn't any player that is so compelling that I want the Eagles to go get him right now. I'm more interested in seeing what McCoy can do.

Remember, Westy had the surgery already (morning of June 5th). The ankle was sore, but it wasn't like he couldn't run or move on it. Barring some bizarre scenario, he should be ready to go for the season. Could his ankle bother him during the year? Sure. We don't know how it will respond to the surgery or the season. I think signing another player right now would be a dumb move. Focus on the guys already here and see what they can do. Monitor Westy's rehab. That's the smart plan in early June. That may change in early July or early August, but for now just sit tight and see how things play out. This isn't the time for action.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Article + Thoughts on Westy

My column is now up. I talked about OTAs and their value to young guys.


We got the news yesterday that Westy is going to have ankle surgery. In my expert opinion, that sucks. We're used to Westy having all kinds of problems during the year. This is now his 2nd surgery during the offseason. I was encouraged to hear about the knee getting cleaned up. That had been a chronic problem and the surgery seemed like a way to help the situation.

The ankle is different. All RBs will have an ankle injury here and there. Westy's got severely hurt in the Steelers game back in September. He's now going to have surgery on it in June? That's odd, and not in a good way. The fact I can recite baseball stats from the 1980 season is odd in an entertaining way. The franchise RB getting cut on at this point for a problem that goes back to late September is not good news. The last thing we need is Westy with a degenerative knee and ankle.

I haven't gotten any inside scoops for you on this issue. You know what I do. He's going to be back in early August, mid-August, or for the regular season. If there is a silver lining to him missing all or part of TC and PS games it is that he'll be that much fresher for the regular season. Westy never got a ton of work prior to September, but maybe the extra rest will help him to stay on the field during the season.

LeSean McCoy is probably very excited by this news. He certainly doesn't want anything bad to happen to Westy, but LeSean can now get a ton of reps. He will get force fed certain things. If he can handle the situation, it may accelerate his development much in the way that Kevin and Reggie's injuries last summer led to the rise of DeSean. That worked out pretty well.

The timing of this situation does work well. McCoy will get a lot of work in these OTAs. That will help to get him ready for TC. The coaches and other RBs will have time to plan for Lehigh. The coaches need to assess the situation and figure out how to best utilize everyone. The players now will have extra reps coming their way. They must be ready to take advantage of the situation. Lorenzo Booker and Walter Mendenhall should be extremely thankful for the potential to get on the field more.

I'll write more about the RB situation in a follow-up post. And I'll continue to look at post drafts. I've set that aside for now since we have current Eagles stories to discuss.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OTA Update

* Brian Westbrook is not participating right now because of a sore ankle. I'd be lying if I said this was no big deal. It's only June and this might be nothing, but I'm never happy hearing about Westy having an injury in the offseason. He had surgery to clean up his knee a couple of months back and that got me excited that we might have a healthy RB all year. Now this.

The good news is that a sore ankle basically needs rest. He'll have 7 or 8 weeks to rest until Training Camp. That should get him close to 100 percent. From there, keep your fingers crossed. This is another reason that I'm more focused on LeSean McCoy than Maclin.

* Sheldon Brown skipped the OTA and is staying home. That's fine with me. His presence isn't required and that gives more reps to guys like Ellis Hobbs and Jack Ikegwuonu. Those guys need every rep they can get so they can get up to speed with the way we want things done. Ellis is adjusting to the Eagles. Jack is adjusting to the NFL.

* DE Greg Ellis got cut by Dallas recently. Should the Eagles be interested? I have mixed feelings. We need to find out whether Victor Abiamiri is the LDE of the future. He needs to get on the field as much as possible. Would Ellis come here knowing he might be a backup? Would he "demand" a starting job?

Juqua Parker is challenging Victor for the LDE job right now. I think that is a ploy by the coaches to keep Victor motivated. They know this is a big year for him. Juqua is a terrific role player, but only a marginal starter. Victor has to win the job and show he can be a productive starter.

I'd be fine with adding Greg Ellis to split reps with VA and help tutor him. Ellis had 8 sacks last year. He can still get to the QB. The tricky part is figuring out how everyone would play. Obviously Juqua would get cut or traded. That would still leave you with:

LDE - Abiamiri ... Ellis ... Clemons
RDE - T. Cole .... Howard .. Bryan Smith

That's a crowded set of DEs. You could pull Darren Howard out and make him a pure DT. That's still 5 guys that you want to get on the field.

I'll never object to the Eagles adding a good pass rusher. I'm just not sure Ellis is a slam dunk guy to go after. Abiamiri is a better run defender. And in obvious passing situations, Clemons will play LDE. Man, this is so different than 2003 when Marco Coleman and ND Kalu were the DEs and we had nothing behind them.

I've asked about whether the team has shown any interest in Ellis, but haven't heard a word. The Eagles love DL so it won't shock me to see them at least talk to his agent. It'll be interesting to see if the Eagles actually make a play for Greg.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Thoughts


Last week at the rookie/selected vets OTAs LB Joe Mays got some snaps at WLB. Some people got excited by this and wondered if a move to the weakside is in Mays future. Don't count on it. He got "some" reps. He didn't move there entirely. All teams want backups who are versatile. Right now Omar Gaither is the top backup at LB. He's started at MLB and WLB. To my knowledge, he's never played SLB in a game. He's smart enough to handle that spot in an emergency in a game.

Mays is likely stuck behind Stewart Bradley for the foreseeable future. His best chance to get on the field is to learn all the LB spots so he can become the top backup. Ike Reese was a terrific #4 LB during his career as an Eagle. He hated not starting, but embraced the job he did have. Mays could be a similar player. Joe seems to understand his situation. Hopefully this year we'll get to see him play well on STs.

Stacy Andrews will participate in some parts of this full team OTA. Great news. He's reportedly going to do some individual stuff, but won't line up in the team drills. I've been skeptical about whether Stacy will be ready for TC or opening day. This is a good sign, although there is still a long way to go. Andrews is penciled in at RG. Nick Cole will handle that spot in the team drills. Shawn Andrews will be the RT.

I like the versatile nature of the linemen that are here now. Jason Peters is clearly the LT. Jamaal Jackson is clearly the C. The other spots feature guys who can move around. Todd can play RT, LT, or G. Stacy has played LG and RT and is slated for RG for us. Shawn has played RG and RT. He feels like he can play LT if given the opportunity. Nick Cole can play G or C.


* FB Brannan Southerland was a player I hoped the Eagles would target late in the draft. He went unpicked. The Eagles aggressively signed Marcus Mailei and Southerland went to the Jets. Southerland just got cut yesterday. Brannan is very athletic and talented. He must have lingering injury issues. Mailei has a very uphill battle to make the team, but he seems like an ideal Practice Squad candidate right now.

* The Eagles added Eugene Bright to the roster a while ago. I haven't talked much about him because I didn't have much to say. Bright played DE at Purdue. Solid player with some athletic ability, but nothing special. The Eagles are playing him at TE. I was bothered by this initially because it seemed like them throwing away a roster spot on a real longshot. I'm not so sure that's the case anymore.

Bright has apparently looked pretty good at mini-camp and the OTAs. Ingram got hurt last week and that left Bright as the only TE available. He took a ton of snaps and the experience was very valuable. He didn't make mental mistakes and the extra reps let him work on his technique. I watched an interview with him on and I came away pretty impressed. Bright understands his situation and will do everything he can to try and take the #3 spot away from Matt Schobel. I'll be pulling hard for Bright to do just that.

* I know a lot of people will be focusing on Jeremy Maclin, but the real guys to watch closely are LeSean McCoy and Cornelius Ingram. They each should be key players this season. We need them. Maclin is a bonus. We're fine at WR and RS without him. McCoy and Ingram are going to be key backups and a real part of the offense. They've done well in everything so far, but we need that to continue. Complacency is a big problem for some young players. This isn't like college where you can get sloppy and still get by because of raw talent.