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.


Stephen said...

I wouldn't have waited till February to cut Schoebel, I wanted him gone the week of the Chicago game. I don't think I've ever been so furious at a player in green in my life, to put no effort into a block at that critical juncture in the game is so inexcusable, so unthinkable I think I was literally frothing with rage the night of the loss. If Schoebel had simply gotten his ass kicked on the block and Brown ends up making the tackle, then I'm like wow Schoebel sucks, but I can live with the idea that we don't have a tremendous 3rd string tight end. Very few teams I imagine would have a 3rd TE that you'd even put a passable grade on.

But to just literally stand up and do nothing at the snap of the ball? I'm so curious about how you can justify keeping such a dreadfully marginal player on a roster when he shows that kind of effort.

izzylangfan said...

You mention that the Eagles have used tight ends of varying types over the years. But the last three tight ends drafted LJ, Celek and Ingram have all been the type who can get down the field and don't block well (at least initially although reports indicate that LJ learned to be a pretty good blocker eventually). I know you think Ingram potentially is more diverse, although he comes in without skills of a polished blocker and playing largely in open space. But my questions are:

1: Do you think that Reid is overly concerned with the longer passes to the tight end instead of working the short game.

2: I have this vision of the prototypical tight end play where he fights off the initial block, doesn't get real seperation but keeps the defender on his back hip and the QB throws the ball to the other side for and easy completion (almost impossible to defend because the defender would have to go through the TE to make a play). Do the Eagles under use this type of play and wouldn't it be a great call on first and ten and third and 6 or third and short that perhaps the Eagless could make better use of?

3:What are the Eagles trying to do with their tight ends?

4: How do the Eagle opponents typical defend our tight ends? i.e. Do they use linebackers or safeties? do they shade them to the inside or outside? What are they worried about? etc.

ZackISM said...

You mentioned the possibility of going 2 TE's....Is it possible Reid would feel safe doing this with the knowledge that A. Jason Peters played TE in college. B. Herremans is 1 for 1 (in terms of targets/catches) and C. Shawn Andrews has expressed interest in playing the role in situations?

We could go O-Line heavy like normal, and just move one of the three out and insert Cole/McGlynn/Giles?

That would give us the blocking TE you are concerned about, and if we wanted to go real big, we could always flex out Celek or Ingram in this package to WR (which I believe I've read Celek has been practicing and Ingram did in college)...

Michael said...

I like ZackISM's post a lot and thought we should've done that last season in short-yardage, goalline situations. We certainly have enough backup guards who don't suck, might as well use them for something.

If we have to have a third tight end, why not Hank Baskett? He's a pretty big guy. Why not just ask him to put on ten lbs, and have him be the de facto third guy?

Cliff said...

I think asking Hank Baskett to add 10 lbs. ("good pounds) this off-season would be next to impossible.

For starters, the guys is already our slowest WR. If he doesn't bulk up right, he could lose the little speed he has. Besides, I imagine it has to be really hard to bulk up over the course of Training Camp. Obviously I'm not a pro-athlete, but I remember mini-camps and summer practice in high school. I always lost a lot of weight.

Now throw in the fact that he's getting married to a Playmate. That's the usual chaos of marriage sprinkled with visits to Hef's mansion, being forced to sit through Kendra's poll-dancing practice sessions, being exposed to reality TV cameras everywhere, etc.

And even if Hank were able to manage all that and put on some weight and learn the TE position to the point where he could be a "reserve" TE, I ask, is it even worth the trouble? Hank's potential as a good, role player WR could be damaged by taking his focus away from the WR position and making him change his body. Plus, as a previous commenter mentioned, we have Jason Peters as a "reserve" TE.

Not even considering the TE situation, we're going to have a different sort of roster this year than we've had in the past. We're very young at RB. We have two FB's who think they're RB's. We've got 7 WR's who could make a case for a roster spot. We have 10 DB's. So, with all that said, I would only carry 2 TE's this season.

Baloophi said...

RE: 2 TE's...

I don't think any Andrews/Peters/Herremans TE formations are anything more than a twice a season goal-line stunt. I'm not interested in losing any of these guys to some sort of undercut/knee-injury, and the prospect of sliding them out there in a regular, two TE-set (not at the goal-line) doesn't make much sense to me because it
A) takes a pro-bowl caliber lineman out of his position,
B) removes a legitimate pass-catching/RAC threat from the field (no matter how much they belly-ache to play TE, these guys don't belong in the open field) and,
C) because of B, you telegraph the run, which also won't be as effective because of A.

Maybe you throw that formation in there at the goal-line or an important 4th and 1, but it really shouldn't be part of a regular game plan, especially in a west coast offense where the "threat" of a receiver tends to be half the battle.

My particular concern with only carrying 2 TE's is injury - these guys get banged-up quite a bit. You can make the case that if you lose a TE in a game, you can pick up a Schoebel-esque player off the wire that week, but I wonder what that does to the playbook in the meanwhile (and on-going, assuming waiver-wire TE won't get the full playbook right away). What does the team do in that pinch during a game? Weaver? Baskett? Boy it really is a shame that Dorenbros is such a long-snapping specialist - a legitimate TE who could also long-snap would open up the roster (I can't believe Schoebel wasn't out there practicing that every day since Chicago...). All of that said, I don't fault the team for carrying Dorenbros - an automatic long-snapper is probably worth it, though we'll hopefully never notice it.

@ Izzylangfan's question #2: I think - of late - that Avant has filled that traditional 3rd and short TE role (position defender on hip and fight for the catch). Obviously he doesn't have the size of a TE and isn't going against a linebacker, but he has the hands and footwork to get a little more separation a little farther down the field than your prototypical TE buttonhookish play. I think LJ was supposed to fill that traditional role but inconsistent hands scared McNabb (and Reid/MM) away, so Avant started doing it down the field. I absolutely agree that - in addition to Avant - we do need that short field threat for 3rd and 3 and obviously the end zone... it minimizes the risks of throwing 10 yards to Avant (less time in pocket, "easier" throw, tipped ball not caroming right into a DB-infested area...). Per Tommy's observation that LJ opened up the deeper routes and seams for Celek (who seems to be adjusting well to that), it does beg the question of who can fill that "sit" or "outlet" type role. Maybe that's where Bright can really shine... forgive me for that last one.

izzylangfan said...

ZackISM suggested that Reid might use other players as tight ends or like tight ends to sort of hedge if the Eagles decide to go with on two real tight ends. I doubt Reid would do that very much. But one situation is intriguing to me. Jason Peters was a former tight end. Now I would imagine that Reid sees left tackle as too important to dilute his efforts with relearning the tight end position. But Reid also likes trick plays and I think it could be smart in the first two games or so to use Peters about twice in a tackle eligible situation to get it on tape. That would give defenses something to think about for the rest of the year.