Sunday, January 31, 2010

Post Senior Bowl Stuff

23 comments
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Are we all agreed that Brandon Graham is the greatest player in the history of college football? He was terrific in the Senior Bowl. He abused multiple blockers and got pressure throughout the game. I know a lot of Eagles fans will be clamoring for Graham to be the pick at #24. We'll see about that.

One concern I have Graham is how well he fits our scheme. One of the things that Jevon Kearse didn't like about our defense is that the DEs were asked to rush upfield under control so that they can play the run. Graham loves to fly off the ball and attack. I need to watch more tape of him to see if he can be effective when playing under control.

One of the keys to good drafting and team building is finding players that fit your system. You need to put players in a position to succeed. Don't ask them to do something they can't. You don't want to pass on special talent if the fit is a little off, but you do need to be careful about trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.

If the Eagles feel that Graham is a special player they'll make a strong push to get him. I talk about this each year. The Eagles are player specific, not position specific. My best example was a couple of years ago when we went after LeCharles Bentley. He was the #1 C in free agency. We made a strong push for him, but Cleveland stole him away late in negotiations. How did we respond? Not by going after the #2 or #3 C. Not by drafting a C early. We let Jamaal Jackson keep the job. We wanted Bentley, not just change. When we lost out on Bentley we stuck with our guy. And that turned out to be a great move.

The Eagles scout between 1500-2000 prospects each year. They whittle that list down to 100-150 names. The Eagles find players they believe in and then go get them. Sometimes that means trading up (Shawn Andrews). Sometimes that means trading back (Kevin Kolb). Last year they really wanted Cornelius Ingram. They waited until the 5th round and took him. It drove me nuts to see them pass on a lot of good TEs in that time, but the Eagles coveted Ingram, torn ACL and all. We'll see how that goes.


Thoughts on some possible Eagles targets:

* DE Brandon Graham --- Dominating performance. Looked quick, fast, and tough. Relentless in his pursuit of the QB. Used his hands well. Played with leverage.

* RB LeGarrette Blount --- Ran hard. Looked good in an offense where he was more of a downhill runner. Showed some athletic ability and speed. Andy Reid liked Brandon Jacobs when he was coming out. You wonder if Big Red will see Blount as someone that would be a great complement to Shady in our backfield.

* RB Ben Tate --- My favorite RB for us. Can block, catch, and run. Had a good overall game. I hope the team likes Ben as much as me. Only a 3rd or 4th round target. Not a great player, but a guy who seems like a perfect fit for us.

* RB Lonyae Miller --- I was impressed with his burst. He's around 220 pounds, but showed good speed. One stat about Miller from the game...during the 2008 season he had 3 TD runs of more than 69 yards. That's impressive. Miller would be an interesting mid-round target.

* DE Austen Lane --- I only saw him at RDE. Didn't stand out. Showed some burst. Effort guy. Wasn't overwhelmed by playing against good competition, but didn't play as well as I hoped he would. Has intriguing size at 6'6, 267.

* LB A.J. Edds --- Picked off a pass late in the game. Has good hands. SAM prospect who can cover and play the ball.

* QB Jarrett Brown --- Up and down game. You can see his physical skills. Very talented guy. I can't see a team considering him before the 4th round.

* S Taylor Mays --- Taylor had a very nice INT in the Red Zone that prevented a score. The throw was slow, but Mays still gets credit for making the pick. I've watched some USC tape recently and I'm getting more and more off the Mays bandwagon. There was also a story from the practices that really turned me off. Sideline reporter Lindsey Soto asked Taylor if he was a LB, SS, or FS? He said "I'm not a LB. I am a Safety." Mays then flexed his arms and added "I'm a strong Free Safety." Remember the scene in Airplane! when Ted Striker told the story and the person next to him grabbed a barf bag? That's the way I felt hearing that story. CBs can be cocky, pretty boy types. Safeties need to be assassins.


I'll be posting notes on the game when I've finished re-watching it and studying each player. Long process. Every player on every play is important.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Busy Friday

15 comments
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The Eagles officially named Howie Roseman the GM. This comes as a surprise to no one. The delay was a little odd, but it seemed like it was simply a matter of getting everyone to Philly at the same time.

I have no problem with this move. Howie did start on the business side of the organization, but he's a smart guy and has shown an aptitude for the football side of things. Just because a guy was a great player doesn't mean he can be a GM. Just the same, a guy with little football experience can be a good GM. Ron Wolf was a history major in college, not a star linebacker. Would you rather have him or Matt Millen, who was a star at Penn State and in the NFL?

Howie has spent time learning from our scouts. He's gone on the road to scout. He's gone to all star games and Pro Days. He's sat in the War Room on Draft Day and seen how things go down. I think he should do fine.

There is one area of concern. Connections. Tom Heckert came here from the Dolphins. He worked for Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson down there. Each of those guys had connections all over the league. Tom knew some of those guys. He also grew to build his own connections in his time as our key personnel guy. Tom always had a great feel for what was going on around the league. Howie is a home-grown guy.

Now, Howie does have a relationship with Steve Spagnuolo, John Harbaugh, Heckert, and Jason Licht. I'm not sure if he and Brad Childress would have ever worked together. That was several years back. We need Howie to build up his network of friends, connections, and people he can work with. Big Red has a great reputation around the league, but there are times when Howie will be the guy who has to make the calls. We will need him to be a good salesman, liar, and storyteller so that we can find out what's going on without giving up clues on what we want to do.

Howie started off working on contracts so I have some hope that he'll be able to deal with people pretty well. That's a crucial part of his job. All the football knowledge in the world is no good if you can't manage your scouts and work well with other teams.

***

DeSean Jackson wants a new deal. Drew Rosenhaus is his agent. That sounds scary, but we have to let this thing play out. DeSean isn't trying to re-do a deal from last year that made him really high paid (see Terrell Owens). He's not asking to be paid elite money for less than elite play (see Lito Sheppard). DeSean is working on a rookie deal and wants his first real money. I'm not offended by this turn of events. I'm sure the Eagles would like to lock him up for the next 5 or so years.

If things get contentious in the spring or summer I'll start to get worried. That is the time when things can spill over to the field and affect games. That is something we don't want.

For all the flak that comes Rosenhaus's way...he does generally get his clients deals. Drew can drive people crazy with his aggressive style of negotiating, but he is a deal maker more often than a holdout enabler.

***

The Eagles signed FB Dwayne Wright. He played RB at Fresno State and really impressed me when I studied him for the draft back in 2007. He goes about 5'11, 230 and here is part of my pre-draft write-up on him:

Ran for 1,461 yds and 11 TDs. Good size/speed combo. N-S power runner. Hits the hole hard. Finishes his runs. Doesn't just head for the sideline. Fights for every yard he can. Slippery and powerful. Good vision. Cuts back very well. Had 295 yds vs La Tech. Good receiver. Had 51 catches in 2 1/2 years. Most came on screen passes. Not a great athlete, but a heck of a RB. Had a very pedestrian workout at the Combine. Only ran a 4.66. His 3-cone time of 7.23 would be a good number for an athletic OL. Wright is one of those guys who plays better than he works out. You will get maximum effort from this kid on every snap.


He was a 4th round pick by Buffalo and saw a little time there, but didn't stick. He spent some time with the Giants, but couldn't earn a spot. Wright is a good addition because he gives us someone with a similar skill set to Leonard Weaver. Obviously Dwayne hasn't been able to show that in the NFL, but he's mostly been a RB. Now he gets a chance as a running FB. Wright is a longshot, but so was Eldra Buckley last year. I do like the fact they added a guy like him. We lost Marcus Mailei from the Practice Squad so it is nice to add a player with some experience.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Draft Stuff

19 comments
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Let's talk about some players and how they fit the Eagles.

TAYLOR MAYS - S - 6'3, 231

Taylor is the ultimate tease. He has LB size and CB speed. He's a good kid who played at a major football school for 4 years. This guy should be a combination of Achilles, Audie Murphy, and the Hulk. He isn't.

Taylor has great size/speed numbers, but he doesn't have great instincts. He reacts to what he sees, but special Safeties anticipate plays. They see things before they happen. Taylor has never shown this. My biggest frustration with Mays is the fact a guy with his ability isn't more of a playmaker. He had 5 INTs in 4 years as a starter. He has 2 TFLs and 1 FF. Yikes. Let's try to put those numbers in perspective. Troy Polamalu also starred at Safety at USC. He was a 3-year starter and totaled 29 TFLs, 6 INTs, 4 blocked punts, and multiple FFs. He once had 12 solo tackles in a bowl game.

Now...understand what USC did with him. Mays was generally put 10-15 yards deep and told to keep things in front of him. Mays did a very good job of this. USC has been really tough to score against in his tenure. In 2008 they only gave up 10 or more points 5 of 13 games. This year they struggled, but that's because so many young guys were on the field.

At his best Mays can control the deep middle. Put on the tape of the Cal game from 2008. I'm sure all of you have the tape laying around. Mays broke up 4 passes and laid some punishing hits on guys. Cal only scored 3 points and no one was too keen about catching balls over the middle. Unfortunately Mays didn't have enough games like that.

The Eagles could use a guy with Taylor's size, speed, and range. He could become an important player in our scheme. Taylor would sit back and tackle guys that got by Asante or Sheldon. He would clean up misses by the LBs. Don't think Taylor is coming here to be Ed Reed. He just doesn't have those instincts or skills.

There is also a very real possibility that he could turn out to be a pedestrian player. He's got something like 50 college starts and we're still counting his great games on one hand. That's not a good sign. I'm not a huge fan of great athletes as Safeties. Dawk, Ed Reed, Polamalu...these guys weren't as gifted as Michael Huff. He was much faster. That speed doesn't show up on game tape. The other guys play fast. That's why they're stars.

I'm not against taking Mays at 24. He does have tremendous potential. I'll never argue against the Eagles taking a flier on someone with special skills if he has no odd character issues. I think Taylor might be a great player in a Cover 2 system. Think of him as a John Lynch type who could fly down into the box in run support, but still has enough speed to cover a deep zone on pass plays.

Taylor is not a LB. He is a Safety. LBs need to be rugged guys who can handle contact. I knew Thomas Davis would be a good LB. He was a 215-lb DB at Georgia, but Thomas was one of the meanest, most aggressive college players I've ever seen. And that is a great compliment from me. He wasn't scared of anyone. Give him a choice of hitting Larry Allen or Todd Pinkston and he's heading for Larry with no doubts. Taylor can be a big hitter, but he's nothing like Davis when it comes to being a nasty, physical guy.


QBs

There is no ideal QB for the Eagles to pick up this year. This is a motley looking bunch. I do like Jarrett Brown. There are times when he reminds me of Donovan. Brown has a similar build and strong arm. He can run. He's tough. High character guy. The only problem is that he's only got one year as the starter. He makes some bonehead mistakes every now and then. He does things that make you want to send him to Siberia for a month. "Come back to America when you learn not to lob screen passes into heavy traffic!!!" I'd be fine with Jarrett, but only in the late 4th or later. He does have the potential to become a starter.

Dan LeFevour will be gone in the 2nd or early 3rd. I doubt we touch him.

Zac Robinson could be of interest if he slides to the 4th or later. He's had a real strong week, but had a down Senior year. Zac can run and throw. He's experienced. Interesting potential.

I think we'll need to add a young guy at some point in the draft. Let's hope the Eagles feel good about one of these guys.


BRANDON GRAHAM - DE - 6'1, 263

Very good player. Led the NCAA with 26 TFLs. Can play LDE or RDE. Fast, quick, strong, and has a great motor. This is a guy that I'd love to have. Mostly.

The downside is that he's only 6'1. He has short arms. That can be important in the NFL. A blocker can extend his arms into the defender and keep control of him. Elvis Dumervil may only be 5'11, but he's got the arms of a guy 6'5. That helped him beat Jason Peters for a sack this year.

Graham would make some sense for us as a LDE. I know some fans want a huge guy, but finding a big LDE who can get after the QB is hard. There aren't many guys like that in the NFL. We might sacrifice some size with Brandon, but we'd gain pass rush ability. I can certainly live with that.

I'm still not convinced we'll wait for the draft to solve LDE. I see that as more of a Pro Personnel move.


For daily Senior Bowl stuff go to the front page at ScoutsNotebook.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some OL Talk

11 comments
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A buddy and I were on the phone yesterday talking about the Eagles and what could happen in the 1st round of the draft. He mentioned that O-line could be a possibility. I disagreed initially, but then we talked about it and came to the conclusion that one move will tell us all we need to know. Do the Eagles give Stacy Andrews the $4.1M bonus he's due in the next couple of months?

If the Eagles pay Stacy, taking an O-lineman in the opening round wouldn't make sense. Jason Peters is in his prime. Same for Todd and Winston. That's 3 of 5 guys. Stacy is in his prime. If we keep him then we've got 4 of 5 positions sewn up for a few years.

C is a mystery. Jamaal might return in 2010. It all depends on his knee. We could re-sign Nick Cole and give him the job. We could give it to Mike McGlynn. We could sign a FA. I don't see us moving any of the projected starters inside. We have never shown much interest in taking a player in the 1st round to play C. We seem to prefer to take guys in the mid to late rounds and trying to develop them.

If we do not give Stacy his bonus then OL becomes a major possibility at pick 24. We'd have hole to fill and there should be good players available. Mike Iupati is the hot name out there right now. He is the best G, far and away. Would he last to 24? Maybe.

Shawn Andrews is an x-factor. I think of him as the Loch Ness Monster. I've heard tales of his existence, but I don't necessarily believe them to be true. Every March he can be seen on PE.com, but I can't guarantee you those pics/vids weren't altered to perpetuate the hoax that he exists. I've dispatched Mulder and Scully to go look for him.

Back to Stacy for a minute...I know a lot of people think he's a bum/bust/whatever because of the way 2009 went down. Stacy is a proven starter in this league. He's big, strong, and experienced. He is a talented O-lineman. Part of the problem this year is that he had to deal with a knee, a new playbook, and a new style of blocking. He didn't trust his knee. He didn't know the playbook inside-out, and he wasn't used to the way we did things. That eroded his confidence and his play suffered greatly. Stacy will be much better in 2010. Will he be some star? No, I'm not telling you he's going to be a great player. At the least, he can be an adequate starter. I'm hoping for much more, but there is room for doubt because of 2009.

Depth on the O-line will be tricky. With no new CBA guys like Nick and Max will be RFAs instead of unrestricted. I'd like to keep Nick. He is a good G. I'm not Max's biggest fan. I'd like him to go to a running team and see if he can fare better for them. We also have Fenuki Tupou coming off IR. He played LT in college, but could play T or G for us. King Dunlap is still here, but he needs to be challenged in a major way.

I hope the OL looks like this:

OT: Peters, Justice, Dunlap, Tupou
OG: Herremans, St. Andrews, Cole
OC: McGlynn

Maybe: Dallas Reynolds, AQ Shipley

??? - J. Jackson, Sh. Andrews

There isn't a huge need for bodies. I'd like to replace Dunlap, but that would be with a mid to late round rookie. I want to re-sign Nick. We might need to add a C if Jamaal is behind schedule, and if either Reynolds or Shipley doesn't emerge.

The thing that makes the O-line so tricky is that you only play 5 guys. It isn't like the D-line where you can use backups and get into a great rotation. You do want talented backups, but also don't want to waste a valuable resource on a player who will sit for a couple of years.

The key to all this is Stacy. Does he stay or does he go?


MISC

This is Senior Bowl week so I'm not going to start any lengthy Eagles discussions for a few days. Lots of draft stuff. I do have some more QB thoughts to share, but that talk can wait for a slower time.

Tuesday's Practice Notes from the Senior Bowl are posted:

--LINK--


QUESTIONS


RE: interest in Vern Gholston?

No. Prior to his draft I was talking to a former NFL scout. I talked about how much I liked Vern. Terrific player. The scout told me Vern would be a bust. I thought the guy was crazy. Oops. He saw something in Vern that I hadn't. Some scouts can pick out players who just won't make it despite lots of positive signs.


RE: switch up DT rotation?

I mentioned that ideally you want a run stuffer with an athlete. Think of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Kevin is the athlete. He's still 6'5, 300. Victor is 6'3 1/2 and 275. He's more of a pure pass rushing DT.

I would love for us to add a guy with a 6'4 or 6'5 frame. Dixon is 6'3 which I like. I'd love someone taller to help push the pocket, but also clog the passing lanes due to his height/arms. A couple of inches can make a difference in that regard.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Column is Posted

19 comments
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Some DT talk.

--LINK--


EAGLES STUFF

Andy Reid will miss the Senior Bowl again this year. He missed last year because we were still alive in the playoffs. Andy has some issues to work through up here (DB coach for example). Normally the Senior Bowl is a good place to go shop for coaches, but Andy isn't that kind of a guy. You bet he's already got a list prepared and is making calls.

We haven't named a GM yet. I have no idea what the holdup is. Howie Roseman basically has the job. The question is what title they give him. GM? President of Player Personnel? Director of Player Personnel? It is all very similar as far as I know. Could be that the Eagles want to bring in someone from the outside to help him and that is the delay.

As for the DB coach opening...I do hope we bring in a good coach. Our DB play was off this year. We would be wise to find someone who knows what he is doing and works well with the players.


QUESTIONS

RE: Kerry Rhodes?

He didn't turn out to be a great fit for Rex Ryan's system. Someone today mentioned that he wasn't physical enough. Maybe. I can't say that Kerry has ever seemed shy to me.

That defense puts a lot of pressure on the Safeties. Those guys have complex roles that require the ability to make good pre-snap reads and do a lot of shifting even before the ball is snapped. You need a thorough knowledge of the offense and defense. Some guys thrive with all the chaos. Other players get slowed down by all the reads and adjustments. They prefer "see receiver, hit receiver".

I need to watch a tape or two of Rhodes and see how he played. I'm certainly interested in him. Kerry had terrific seasons in 2006 an '07. He's been off a bit the last couple of years. Still a talented player who can make plays. In 5 years he has 15 INTs and 9 sacks.


RE: coaching changes / mass exodus?

We fired the STs guy so we could hire an upgrade. The DB coach left for a demotion, which essentially sounds like we wanted him gone. Am I missing something? I would hardly call that a mass exodus. We did lose some guys from the personnel department, but that is different. I'm not worried by these losses.

The strength coaches...I still haven't read or heard anything on that. Those guys are easily replaceable. As I've mentioned before, several of our guys were already going to an outside trainer for extra help.


RE: the draft

I don't want to load up on defense with all the early picks. We need immediate help. You can't count on rookies. I'd rather solve a problem or two with pro personnel and then hope for one rookie to help out a lot.

When it comes to draft talk I like to play the "what if" game. My goal is to imagine how a particular scenario could unfold and how the players would affect us. Kindle at SAM is something that seemed dumb last month. I've watched Sergio recently and he's grown on me. I can't decide if I like the idea or not at this point. I like thinking about it and trying to imagine how he'd fit in.

We all have our delusional fantasies. I'll lay mine out next week. Hopefully I'll remember that it is the offseason plan fantasy and not the Amy the cheerleader fantasy (we're trapped all alone in NFL Films and won't be rescued for months).


RE: Peyton hatin'

Peyton Manning is a perfectionist. That's an admirable quality in many ways, but not necessarily at QB. Terry Bradshaw won 4 SBs with a playbook that was pretty thin. He didn't worry about outsmarting you. Terry knew that he had good players and the key was execution. He certainly wanted to dial up a good play from time to time and burn you with a misdirection run or maybe a play-action pass.

Peyton is constantly trying to find the perfect play to burn your defense. That drives me crazy. I absolutely love the cerebral side of football, but there are some times when you line up and outplay the guys across from you. Everybody remembers the time we stopped Dallas when they ran "Load Left" on 4th/1 in 1995. People don't remember the dozens of times that Dallas ran it and moved the chains. We knew that play was coming plenty of times, but you just couldn't stop it.

The other thing that drove me crazy about Peyton is that he came into the league and had these players to work with: Marvin Harrison, Marshall Faulk, Ken Dilger. That's an elite WR, elite RB, and good TE. Peyton had star players throughout his time to work with...until this year. Finally he had to deal with young guys. To his credit, Peyton stepped his game up and got the young guys to play at a high level. I always said Tom Brady was the better QB because he won with less. Now Peyton is doing that. I give him all the credit in the world. I doubted whether he could succeed with lesser guys. Peyton has proven me wrong. Kudos to him.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Coaching Change

14 comments
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DB Coach Brian Stewart is heading to Houston to become Defensive Coordinator. This would be a great move...if it wasn't the University of Houston. I have no insight on this move, but I get the feeling that Stewart turned out to be a bad fit for us.

Former Eagle Mike Zordich was an intern with the defensive staff this year. He was a good Safety for us for several years in the mid to late 90s. Mike could be a candidate for the DB coaching job. He also has the coolest mustache this side of Rollie Fingers.

I'm not sure what other guys could be coaching candidates. I'll see if I can find anything out. The Eagles prefer to hire from within, but they may not feel like Zordich is ready for the job. Our secondary had an off year in 2009 and needs to bounce back in a big way in 2010.


PRO BOWL STUFF

What a joke. Droves of players are skipping. This has opened up spots for several guys, including McNabb and Quintin Mikell. I'm happy for a guy like Q who came into the league as a UDFA and had to fight and claw his way into the lineup.

I don't have a good solution for the Pro Bowl, but this is the least compelling all star game of the pro sports. And that is by a long, long, long way.


COUPLE OF ANSWERS

RE: Kindle at SAM

It now seems highly unlikely that Sergio will make it to pick 24. We'll have to find a new target for discussion at this point.


RE: Mock Drafts / rankings

I don't read many mocks. One thing I do think most people miss is the fact that a mock should be just a "What if..." exercise. Rarely is a mock exactly what someone thinks will happen. At some point in each mock you get to a point where you have no idea what player would go there. You guess.

I respect Mike Mayock as much as anyone. He knows his stuff. He's a film guy. Mike doesn't go on workouts and hype. We don't always agree, but I take his opinion seriously.


RE: Colts / domes / Manning

I'm not a big fan of the Colts, but I do love the way Bill Polian has built that organization up. The assistant coaches do a great job.

I hate domes. They give the home team an unfair advantage. Football is meant to be played outside. Seattle generates tremendous crowd noise in an outdoor facility. Those fans deserve a ton of credit.

I haven't liked Peyton since his days in college. I respect the fact he's a great player, but I hate watching him yell at teammates. He's cut down on that this year. Dan Marino was another guy that constantly screamed at teammates and he drove me crazy because of that. Not many guys are motivated by being yelled at by their QB on a regular basis. I gained a lot of respect for Manning this year as he adjusted to the young guys and stepped up his game. Amazing season by him.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Championship Sunday

27 comments
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The AFC title game is a pretty tense affair. I don't like Peyton Manning or Mark Sanchez, so it is hard for me to get excited about either team. I'll pull for the NFC team in the Super Bowl, so it doesn't really matter to me who wins.

The big question in the NFC title game is how Minnesota plays on the road. This year they were great at home, but mediocre on the road. If they can bottle up what they did last week they'll go to the Super Bowl.

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Nothing really going on in Eaglesville. The coaches and scouts are heading to Mobile, AL for the Senior Bowl this week. This is the most important non-game week of the year. Careers are made in Mobile. Donovan played lights out for Jon Gruden's North Squad back in 1999 and that helped elevate him to the #2 spot. Had he struggled we might be having Daunte Culpepper or Cade McNown arguments. I'll be writing stuff all week on ScoutsNotebook. I will post Eagles-related stuff here.

***

ANSWERS

RE: DE discussion

I'll definitely be doing a post on the best available DEs. We need to see the Senior Bowl practices/game to have an even better feel for the situation. I'm still watching tape of the players. Some underclassmen I know. Others I only know a little about. I love Jerry Hughes. I like Brandon Graham quite a bit. Everson Griffen isn't my cup of tea.


RE: LB

We do like to take DEs and turn them into SAMs. I assume part of that is because those players know how to take on blockers and fight at the point of attack. You have to teach them how to cover, but honestly...a lot of college LBs have to be taught how to cover.

We like big MLBs just because that is the way we use our MLB.

We like to convert "normal" sized MLBs to WLB. We seem to really like a physical, tough guy at the WLB spot.

I don't agree with everything we do. I wish the team would be more aggressive at OLB. We haven't had an outright "good" OLB in a long time. We've got some players who show potential, but haven't truly emerged. I loved the Gocong and Matt McCoy picks, but neither one worked out as hoped. Gocong still could turn into a good SAM. McCoy just wasn't ready for the professional nature of the NFL.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Shrine Game Info

26 comments
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The East-West Shrine Game is Saturday at 3pm on ESPN2. I guess The Ocho was booked up with dodgeball.

This isn't the big pre-draft all star game. That's the Senior Bowl. The Shrine Game is #2 among AS games. Current Eagles like Brent Celek, Chris Gocong, and Tracy White played in the game. All 3 looked quite good. Correll Buckhalter had a big play in the game back in 2001 that help his draft status. OT Fenuki Tupou was picked from last year's game.

The players from the Shrine Game tend to be guys that will go in rounds 4-7 and as UDFAs. There are a handful of guys who will go earlier. Not many, though.

*** Players of Interest for the Eagles ***

EAST

WR Freddie Barnes - Goes about 6'0, 210. Caught 155 passes this year. Played in a spread offense. The question is how he'll adjust to a pro style attack. We need someone for depth since Brandon Gibson was dealt away this year. Barnes could be the kind of player we like. He's a polished receiver with okay size.

FS Van Eskridge - I tend to think the Eagles will be looking for a significant addition at safety, but if something comes up and they decide to look in the mid to late rounds Eskridge could be a target. He can hit and tackle. He knows how to play centerfield. Eskridge led ECU in tackles and interceptions. He isn't a great athlete, but takes good angles to the ball and has good instincts. Finished his career with 11 picks, 17.5 TFLs, and 197 tackles.

QB John Skelton
- If the team makes a QB trade then there will be a spot for a developmental prospect. Skelton is a real big guy with a strong arm. I'm not sure he's ideally what the Eagles are looking for, but this is a weak QB class. Very productive career at Fordham.

WR Blair White - I tend to think of him as mainly a slot receiver, but he had a great Senior season. He'll get a chance to show his stuff in a generic environment where individual skill trumps ability to fit into a role on a team. Is Blair athletic enough to play outside or is he just a slot guy?

LB/DE Chris McCoy - He played DE at MTSU. McCoy could be a SAM target. He had 20.5 TFLs this year. Disruptive player, but not explosive off the edge.

QB Mike Kafka - He had Northwestern up on Penn State when he got hurt and had to leave the game. Kafka is a leader and tough guy. He has some athletic ability. He's accurate, but I do have concerns about the fact he comes from the spread offense. Can he make pro throws? Most of the time at NW he was getting the ball to wide open guys.

WR Naaman Roosevelt - Productive player with good size. Had a stellar career at Buffalo. Has NFL size and skills. Is he fast/quick enough to beat good DBs? Definitely a guy to watch.

DE Lindsey Witten - Played a lot of LDE at UConn. Has an excellent frame at 6'5, 250. Led the Huskies this year with 11.5 sacks. Not an explosive pass rusher, but has a good motor and knows how to get to the QB. We don't have any DEs with his kind of frame.

DE Greg Hardy - Good size for a LDE at 6'4, 280. At times looked like a star in his college career. Missed time due to injuries and didn't have the kind of Senior season that he wanted. Lots of potential, but has to show he can stay healthy and be productive.

OL Chris Scott - Played LT at Tennessee. Could play G or RT in the NFL. Has the kind of size we love at 6'5, 330. Powerful enough to anchor well, which is crucial in our system.

S Barry Church - All-MAC player for 4 straight years. Has good size. Very good box Safety. Could be a SS target in the mid to late rounds.

LB/DE O'Brien Schofield - Finished 2nd in the nation with 24.5 TFLs. Played mostly LDE. Only goes about 6'2, 245. Has a skinny build. Looks more like a LB or situational rusher than a starting DE. Can he handle the move to LB? Is he one of those guys who can play DE despite being undersized?

OL Chris DeGeare - Good size at 6'4, 335. Has played G and T. Could be an Eagles target as a late round G. Remember that Max Jean-Gilles may or may not be back.


WEST

RB Dimitri Nance - Had an up and down career due to injuries. Has good size at 5'10, 225. Ran for 1,934 yards in his career. Also caught 63 passes. Could be an effective part of a RB rotation.

ILB Joe Pawelek - Stewart Bradley will return as the starting MLB. However, after the problems of 2009 there is a need for depth at that spot. Pawelek had a terrific career at Baylor. Has okay size at 6'2, 240. Really interesting guy because of 9 career INTs and 17 PBUs.

QB Matt Nichols - Another small school guy gets a chance on the big stage. Matt threw for 12,616 yards and 33 TDs in his time at Eastern Washington. 4 year starter. This is a huge opportunity for Matt. Let's hope he shows NFL ability and handles the speed of the game.

RB Lonyae Miller - Backup RB to Ryan Mathews at Fresno State, but could be of interest. Goes about 5'11, 220. Used to sharing the ball. Good career (2,062 yards and 20 TDs), but never had a great season. Did average 5.5 yards per carry for his career.

WR Seyi Ajirotutu - Big WR with NFL ability. Goes 6'3, 210. Played in a pro style offense so his numbers don't compare to the spread guys. Seyi had 129 catches and 12 TDs in his career. Could be of interest in the late rounds as a young guy to develop into a backup.

OL Reggie Stephens - Played G most of his career, but had to shift to C this season. Solid prospect. Has good size at 6'3, 330. Late round type, but could be the kind of versatile guy we need to bring in to challenge for a reserve role.

LB Keaton Kristick - Good LB. Goes about 6'3, 230. Can run, hit, and tackle. Had 2 INTs this year. I think we'd prefer him at SAM. Good motor. Fun player to watch.

OG Brandon Carter - Texas Tech's star O-lineman finally gets to play in a conventional offense. We get to see him in a 3-point stance and firing off the ball on run plays. Carter can do himself a lot of good if he handles the changes well. A guy with his size should prefer more run plays (and not just draws either). Andy and Juan like big OL. Carter could be of interest. He's 6'5, 330.

CB Jamar Wall - Talented CB prospect. Has okay size at 5'10, 203. Active DB broke up 15 passes this year. Also had 2 INTs and 2 FFs. Defensive MVP of the Alamo Bowl. We seem to like guys his size that can play the ball.

CB Devin Ross - Another solid CB. Lists at 5'10, 185. Broke up 25 passes over the last 2 years. Led Arizona in tackles so you know he's not shy about playing the run.

OT Mike Tepper - Rare 6-year player. Had some serious injury issues in his time at Cal, but played well when healthy. Played LT as a Senior and started every game. Doesn't have the footwork to play there in the NFL, but could slide into G or over to RT. Started at RT in the past. Good run blocker.

WR Kerry Meier - Former QB became a workhorse slot receiver for Kansas. Thrived in the spread attack, catching 226 passes and 19 TDs. Good hands. Knows how to get open. Good size at 6'2, 220. Does he have the speed for the NFL? Looks like a pure slot guy.

S Darrell Stuckey - Darrell was very productive in his career, but Kansas players are known to be stat-sheet stuffers. They don't always make plays at the next level. Darrell needs to stand out in the game as more than just a good tackler. He needs to make a play or two or look good in coverage. Could be a SS target for us.

ILB Lee Campbell - If we want a big thumper in the middle as a backup Lee could be our guy. Goes about 6'3, 250. Physical run stuffer. Led Minnesota in tackles. Broke up 5 passes and blocked 2 kicks. The big question is whether he has the athletic ability to play in the NFL.

CB Brian Jackson - If we want a big physical CB in the mid to late rounds Jackson could be of interest. He's over 6 feet and 200 pounds. Not a great athlete, but can be an effective cover guy when he is able to jam the receiver and be physical with him. Picked off 4 passes this year. Might have some potential as a Safety.

S T.J. Ward
- Good Safety prospect. I'm shocked he's not at the Senior Bowl. Good tackler and big time hitter. Stood out to me over the last 2 years. More of a SS than a FS. Only had 2 picks in his career. Missed 4 games this year due to injury. Oregon has had some good DBs in recent years.

S Robert Johnson - Solid mid-round prospect from Utah. Goes 6'2, 200. Had a terrific showing in the bowl game. Had some big hits and controlled the middle of the field. Also had a pick. Finished his career with 13 INTs. Complete player. Solid instincts. Doesn't look like a great athlete.

WR David Reed - Could be an interesting target for us. Incredibly productive in Junior College then went to Utah and put up solid numbers. Caught 81 passes this year. Has okay size at 6'0, 190. Good KOR. Has good RAC ability. Talented guy, but doesn't look like a future NFL starter. Could be a good role player.

LB Jason Beauchamp - Led UNLV in tackles, TFLs, and sacks. Played some DE in college, but is more of a LB at the next level. This game will give him a chance to show that he can cover and play in space. Could be a SAM target for us. Lists at 6'3, 235.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Early Friday Thoughts

18 comments
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Sorry for the lack of a Thursday post. I need to answer some questions.

RE: Giving McNabb one more year

This is a really intriguing thought. I'm almost got a battle with different parts of my brain making their case.

FOR --- This is the best set of skill players Donovan has ever had. If the OL is stable the sky could be the limit. There shouldn't be any key rookies involved. If you could take the best of Donovan from 2004, '06, '08 and '09 and get that to show up regularly the offense could be awesome.

AGAINST --- I think David Mamet made my argument well in his most famous writing..."These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they're gold, and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They're for closers." Donovan would win some games with the talented guys, but lose in the end. We average 15 points per game in playoff losses started by him. That's over the course of 7 games. Do you realize the last time Donovan led us to 30 or more points in the playoffs was 2001 against Chicago?


@ Adam S...

Thanks for the thoughts on Mallet.


RE: Timing of things

Couldn't get any better. Donovan is still good, meaning some team should covet him. Kolb is "ready" to play (lots of practice, playbook, and some starts). If we hold McNabb another season all kinds of things could happen. He could be much better or worse. He could get hurt. We'd have to use the Franchise Tag on him and then trade him. That could complicate things. Also, this is a weak QB draft. Not everyone is going to get the guy they want. Someone will need/want a veteran.

I need to write something out about potential landing spots.


RE: changes in the Personnel Dept.

I want to see who we hire before making too many comments. Do know this...Big Red would have fought to keep anyone he felt was irreplaceable.


RE: lack of talent to fill holes on defense / CBA

I am worried about the potential lack of FAs, but that could make dealing McNabb even more crucial. You would almost have to use him to land a starter on D that could really help us.


RE: injury to Jamaal Jackson

Losing him hurt much more than I ever expected. Nick Cole has been the backup C for 4 years. He's gotten on the field quite a lot, although mostly at G. He knows the offense. He knows the NFL. He's gotten plenty of practice reps at C. I figured he'd be fine sliding inside. Nick had some good individual moments, but he also had too many mistakes. Just as important, the overall OL struggled with him as the leader. I can't tell you if he screwed up blitz adjustments or if other guys did. No matter who is to blame...the OL let us down at a crucial time. That hurt us and Donovan.

We need Mike McGlynn to step up this offseason and challenge for the C spot. My confidence in Nick Cole is shaken (at C). I'm also interested to see what Dallas Reynolds can do. Jamaal has a long way to go and a short time to get there (thanks Jerry Reed). I'm not sure JJ will be ready by September.


RE: Kolb

One thing I think too many people lose sight of is the fact that Andy didn't just go pick a QB. Kolb was a guy he'd targeted for a while. Andy really thinks highly of Kevin. Taking him wasn't just about adding a QB. The only way Reid spends that high a pick is if it's on a player he truly believes in.

Kevin may seem unknown to us, but consider a few things. Andy was willing to spend a high pick on Kevin. I bet you that Andy watched 80% of Kevin's passes from his college career. Andy has worked with him for 3 offseasons, 3 summers, and 3 seasons. Kevin has been the scout team QB in practice for 3 years. Keep in mind that the scout team goes up against our starting defense. The coaches and players have watched Kevin "play" hundreds of times. Practice isn't the same as a game, but it also isn't meaningless. The coaches have a pretty good feel for him.

Clearly, you never know exactly how a guy will respond to being the full time starter and all that entails. Kevin started for 3 or 4 years in HS. He did that for 4 years in college. I have to think he's as prepared as he can reasonably be. We'd all love him to have 8-10 starts, but Donovan hasn't been seriously injured. At this time next year there is a fair chance that Kevin will have started a game or two more, but that wouldn't tell us substantially more than we already know.

Making the change from McNabb to Kolb isn't about boredom, at least not for me. I do admit to being frustrated with Donnie. He came up incredibly small in the final 2 games. We got shut out with the #2 seed on the line. The next week he only puts 7 points on the board in the playoffs. Dallas has a good defense, but that isn't the '85 Bears we're talking about. We had plays open. Donovan failed to find open receivers and/or be on time/on target.

The whole point to having an 11 year veteran with tons of accolades isn't so that he can throw TDs on mediocres defenses like the Bucs or Giants. You want that guy at the helm when the division title is on the line or in the postseason. Donovan let us down in both games. He was not the only reason we lost. The whole team had breakdowns. Still...if the guy is a special QB that is when you expect him to step up his game and make some things happen. I wasn't demanding wins, but 1 TD in 2 games? Brutal.

_____________

Couple of misc NFL items to read if you like...

http://scoutsnotebook.wordpress.com/
__

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

McNabb / Kolb Situation & A New RB

35 comments
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I finally finished by lengthy write up on the Future at QB.

--LINK--

I'm sure most of you expected me to choose Kevin or Donovan. Who knew that Mike McMahon would still be a candidate? I guess I just missed the glory days of December 2005 too much.


NEW RB

The Eagles signed Martell Mallett on Tuesday. He played in the CFL last year, winning Rookie of the Year. 214-1,280-6 TDs. 5.8 ypc. 43-342-2 as a receiver. He lists at 6'0, 210. Mallett played at Arkansas-Pine Bluff prior to the CFL.

I put in a game tape from his APB days to check him out. PE.com also has some highlight clips up. Here's what I saw:

Physical runner. Doesn't go down on first contact. Runs behind his pads and will finish runs when he has a chance. Lacks ideal speed, but runs hard. N-S runner. Effective on cutback runs. Generally a 1-cut runner. Okay burst. Not overly elusive. Has good balance. Shows good vision. Will trust the play. Good receiver. Has soft hands and can pluck the ball. Shows potential as a pass blocker. Not shy. Effective catching screens.


Here is a link to his stats from college. Ran for 2,888 yards and caught 50 passes.

--Mallet at APB--

I'm glad the Eagles signed this kind of RB. He's not the small shifty runner that we've targeted in the past. Mallet's success in Canada is good, but that doesn't mean much when it comes to making an NFL roster. Every year CFL stars come to NFL teams. Some pan out, some don't.


QUESTIONS

I apologize for the lack of answers. Writing the QB piece took forever. I'll be getting to some of the FA/draft topics soon.
_

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Column Posted

17 comments
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My apologies for the quiet day. I've been writing about the McNabb/Kolb situation. The piece is a tad long...almost 9 pages. I think I'm done, but I need to re-read it a final time and make sure I'm not making any major errors.

I'm sure a few of you have read this, but for the tens of thousands who may have missed it...I wrote about major offseason needs for PE.com.

--LINK--


I also wrote something for Bloghead...some quick draft thoughts. Here is that:

With the off-season upon us, it's never too early to start looking ahead to what the Eagles might do in the draft ...


* The Eagles got lucky that several young safety prospects left school early. Eric Berry of Tennessee is the prime target, but he could go as high as the top five. Dream, but don't expect. One player I am interested in is Earl Thomas of Texas. He's only a redshirt sophomore and that bugs me somewhat, but Thomas has NFL athleticism and ability. He picked off eight passes this year. Thomas also finished second on the team in tackles. He makes plays against the run and pass. He has good range and seems to take good angles to the ball, something that is critical at safety. Thomas could be a first-round target for us.

* I tend to think the Eagles will look for a defensive end at the NFL level. If they do wait until the draft a couple of names to keep in mind are Jerry Hughes and Brandon Graham. Both players are left ends with good pass rush ability. I want to throw out one small school name – Austen Lane of Murray State. This kid reminds me of Jason Taylor when he was at Akron. Lane is 6-6 and about 260 pounds. He has a great motor and good athletic ability. Lane totaled 41.5 tackles-for-loss over the last two seasons. He had 23 sacks in that span. He's a very intriguing guy that could go as high as the second round.

* My favorite cornerback in the draft (not the best, though) is Kyle Wilson of Boise State. He reminds me a bit of Sheldon Brown. Wilson is a complete player. He can cover, hit, tackle, blitz and also returns punts. I love the way Wilson does everything full speed. There is no hesitation in his game. Fun player to watch.

* I know many fans would love the Eagles to take running back Toby Gerhart. He's a tremendous power runner with great feet. Unfortunately, he's so good that he'll likely go in the top 50 picks. We wouldn't spend a first-round pick on a guy like him. As much fun as it was to watch Leonard Weaver powering up the field it's not worth a first-round pick. I don't know that Gerhart will last to our second round spot, or even that we'd be willing to spend that pick on him. I do hope the Eagles add a runner with some size either in the draft or through free agency. Ben Tate of Auburn is around 220 pounds and could be a player the Eagles like. James Starks of Buffalo missed the year with a shoulder injury, but reminded me of Correll Buckhalter when I watched some of his junior tape.

* A few people have asked about possible centers to draft. The Eagles generally prefer to develop players at that position. Hank Fraley sat a year before he got the job. The only way he got it that fast was an injury to Bubba Miller. Jamaal Jackson spent time here on the practice squad and then the bench before he got the job. I think Mike McGlynn is the guy to really watch. He's trained for two years. McGlynn should be ready to challenge for the job. In terms of prospects, Maurkice Pouncey is a junior from Florida with good size and ability, but I just can't see the Eagles taking him. He should go in the first couple of rounds. Reggie Stephens of Iowa State is a guy who has played guard and center. He could be a late-round target for depth.
_

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some Quick RB Talk

19 comments
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Howard Eskin reported that Brian Westbrook could be done as an Eagle and/or in the NFL. I've mentioned this as well recently. As I love to point out, actions speak louder than words. In the playoffs the Eagles gave more time to the rookie than the "franchise RB". That told you all you need to know.

Big Red is saying all the right things, but reality is different. Westy was a great player, especially in 2006 and 07. He put up big numbers and was the heart and soul of the offense. Westy struggled a bit more last year. The big plays disappeared and he lacked the burst he once had. In the offseason he had ankle and knee surgery. I was hopeful that these procedures would help him out, since done in the sense of preventive maintenance. Wrong.

Brian had some good moments, but too few. He only had one run of more than 20 yards. He only scored 2 TDs. Westy did average 4.5 yards per carry, but that was partially inflated by his game at Oakland (6 carries for 50 yards). Look at my game notes on him:

Had 6 carries for 50 yards. Caught 9 passes for 91 yards. My only beef with him was his speed. On a couple of plays it looked like he might be headed for a monster gain or TD. Players were able to close in him in a hurry. Still has great vision and patience to let plays develop. If only he had LeSean's wheels...


Brian started the year off well, running 22 times for 109 yards and looking good. Then he hurt his ankle late in the 1st half of the Saints game. He was never really the same. He showed some burst prior to that injury, but not after it. In the playoff loss he caught a screen pass and had acres of room to run. I thought we had a TD, but he was tackled for just a 27-yard gain. It just doesn't look like he can run anymore.

A full offseason could make a big difference, but that's only half the battle. Westy is due more than $7M next year. I would not even pay him half of that. Would he accept a lower figure to be part of a rotation? At that point I can see Westy just hanging up his cleats. His concussion problem is a whole other issue that Brian and the team need to figure out.

The Eagles worked out some RBs recently. The big names were DeDe Dorsey and Dwayne Wright. Dorsey is a good STer and 3rd down type RB. Wright has more size and strength. I liked him quite a bit coming out of Fresno State, but he's struggled in the NFL. These guys face long odds to make the team, but so did Eldra Buckley when we added him this time last year.

The guys at Bleed Green Forever have up some additional background details on the guys if you're interested.

- link -

The team will make a real move at RB if in fact Westy does get cut or traded.

_

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Down Goes Dallas

13 comments
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I admit it. I was nervous about Dallas. I let the hype machine start to get to me. Could they break through and win it all? The Cowboys had a good winning streak. They were playing outstanding defense and Tony Romo was red hot. The thought of having Dallas plow through the postseason and winning the Super Bowl scared the crap out of me, to put it eloquently.

Thanks to the Vikings I can now rest easy. Minnesota dominated Dallas, 34-3. The Vikings DL was sensational. Tony Romo got sacked 6 times and hit many more. He ran for his life at various stretches. While the Vikings D played great you have to factor in the home field advantage. More than half of the Vikings sacks came at home this year. The last time an opponent scored more than 10 points in Minnesota was back on October 18th when Baltimore put up 31 points. The Vikings D has been sensational at home since that game, allowing a total of 49 points in 6 games.

I've already heard a few analysts talking about what the Vikings D will do to the Saints. Don't be so sure. Minnesota allowed 92 points in the last 3 road games, all losses. And all due respect to Matt Moore, Jay Cutler, and Kurt Warner, but Drew Brees is a whole other level right now.

I will be thoroughly impressed if Minnesota is able to go to New Orleans and shut down that offense. I know Dallas did, but the Saints got away from running the ball in that game. Sean Payton isn't likely to make that mistake again.

As for Dallas, we can all enjoy their misery right now, but that team will be back next year. They have a lot of talent in place and those guys will be coming back. Dallas had an awful lot of things go right this season. That may not happen next year. It isn't likely that they'll go through another season so injury free. The problems Dallas did have were manageable. TE Martellus Bennett disappeared, but John Phillips took advantage of the time that he got. WR Roy Williams was highly inconsistent, but Miles Austin came from nowhere to make the Pro Bowl. K Nick Folk did bottom out. I don't know right off hand if his misses cost them any wins.

Now compare that to us. Stewart Bradley 0 games. Omar Gaither gone after a few weeks. Akeem Jordan hurt for a month. Joselio Hanson suspended for a month. Brian Westbrook out for half the year. Donovan McNabb out for 2 games. Todd Herremans out for a month. Jamaal Jackson out for the final 3 games. Quintin Demps missed several games. Stacy Andrews never really got going and essentially missed the year. Victor Abiamiri had his annual injury that once again stunted his development. To put it simply...imagine if the final 2 games involved Stewart Bradley at MLB for us and Jeremiah Trotter playing in place of Bradie James. That would have made a huge difference.

Injuries are part of the game. We overcame them enough to win 11 games, but hopefully next year we'll be the lucky team that has few backups on the field when the postseason rolls around.


QUESTIONS

RE: Stew at SAM and drafting a MLB

I don't like this idea. Stew was a perfect fit at MLB. The only way I move him is if there is an elite MLB available. Rolando McClain is the only elite prospect at that spot and he'll be gone in the Top 10. If we got up that high and could get him then I would be open to putting Stew outside. That's the only way. Brandon Spikes is a good player, but Stew is such a perfect fit that I don't want to move him just for a "good" player.


RE: Nickel LB

This deserves a detailed answer. I'll write something up.


RE: Rashad Jeanty

He absolutely could be a SAM target. Rashad has pretty good size at 6'2, 245. He plays SAM for the Bengals and does a pretty good job. He's not great in any way, but could be the kind of player to come in here and fight for the job. Fokou will get a chance at the job, but we do need competition for him, assuming we let Gocong go.

_

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Good Signs

24 comments
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Change is hard. There is real comfort in sticking with the way things are, especially when you are successful. I told a few people recently that I'd love for the Eagles to dump Ted Daisher and go after Bobby April, but I knew that wasn't likely to happen because it isn't Andy Reid's style. He sticks with his coaches, through thick and thin.

But guess what happened? Andy fired Daisher and hired April. Change. Yikes, hide under your beds. God only knows what will happen next.

I take this as a good sign. Andy had a chance to go land arguably the best STs coach in the league. He went and did that. Daisher did some good things this year. He seemed to be an improvement on Rory Segrest. Still, Daisher isn't on the same level as Bobby April.

This move shows me that Andy is willing to shake things up a bit...if the right move is there to be made. Too often fans want change for the sake of change. They frame their argument a certain way, but the heart of the issue is that they are tired of the guy who currently has the job. Stability is highly underrated, but too much of anything is bad. Some change is good. It brings fresh ideas and personalities to the mix. It changes the dynamic of the group in some way.

Andy also fired the strength guys. I don't pretend to know whether they did a good job in recent years. We won so they probably were doing something right. Maybe we did need a change, though. Strength and Conditioning is a field that seems to constantly be shifting. Trainers now employee all kinds of radical ideas to get players to maximize their bodies. David Akers did the P90X thing in the offseason prior to 2008 and that may have saved his career. Several Eagles use a local trainer named Steve Saunders to help them get over the top. The players were working out with the team, but went elsewhere for more specialized training. Mike Wolf had been here for 15 years. Maybe the issue was that he was simply not getting creative enough. You bring in some new blood with fresh ideas and get the team re-invigorated.

I certainly don't blame Wolf for any losses or real problems. That would be bogus thinking. At the same time, teams sometimes need a little edge to help them in a game or specific situation. Maybe Wolf's ideas and methods gave us that edge 10 years ago. Now it is time to look elsewhere.

Don't think these moves mean that Andy has turned into Stalin and there will be constant purges in the offseason. It does show us that Big Red was bothered enough by the end of the season to actually make aggressive changes. That's a good sign. I don't think the rest of the coaching staff needs any changes, but there is some serious work to be done on the roster.


ANSWERING QUESTIONS

RE: 3-4/4-3 hybrid


Not a likely move. A few teams have done it (BAL, NE, ARZ). I just don't think we need a schematic change. Our D was on the verge of greatness last year. Injuries and moves took us back a step this season. We need better players, not new schemes.

Players have to know a lot of calls and assignments in any defense. Mixing fronts requires a smart front seven (mainly veterans) who can adjust on the fly and not blow assignments. One missed gap leads to a big play or TD. Mixing fronts can confuse the offense, but also your own players.

Tom Landry created the 4-3. Buddy Ryan ran the 4-3. The Steel Curtain was the 4-3. The Purple People Eaters were the 4-3. The great Ravens of 2000 ran a 4-3. If Jesus were a defensive coordinator he would run the 4-3. The 3-4 is for AFC teams and guys named Bill. I'll pass.


RE: Lendale White

I doubt the Eagles go for a guy like him. He is a FA and I think he'll want to go somewhere he can get touches. We don't run that much. I would like us to bring in a back with some size, but White probably isn't our guy. We may go through the draft for our new RB.


RE: Vick's trade value

I've been all over the place on this. In Early November I said "none". I'll amend that. He does have trade value, but I'm sure it would most likely be conditional picks. Vick still hasn't started a game at QB in years. He hasn't thrown more than a few passes. If I were a team I would not feel comfortable with him as my starter...yet.

I'm thinking the Eagles may keep Vick around as the Wildcat in 2010. He proved quite valuable during one stretch. He is pricey, but if he can deliver 1st downs and TDs that might be worth it.


RE: SAM & Akeem

Akeem Jordan came into this year firmly entrenched at WLB. He started the season well in some areas, but his coverage was a problem. We got eaten alive by TEs and Jordan was part of the problem. He lost his job in the Nickel because of coverage and tackling issues.

Jordan is a hitter. He is physical. He's not a SAM guy. The SAM backer needs to be able to engage blockers, shed, and find the ball. The job of the WLB in our system is often to attack the lead blocker. Blowing up the Fullback is different that setting the edge vs an OL. One block is about leverage and positioning. The other is about running through a brick wall. Jordan will attack the wall. He's tough and fearless.

What do the Eagles ideally want?

WLB - 6'2, 240 ... guy must be tough, able to cover, good blitzer, physical tackler
MLB - 6'2, 255 ... guy must be powerful (esp. in lower body), must be able to handle some OL
SLB - 6'3, 255 ... guy should be able to set edge vs run, good blitzer, jam TE, some coverage

Think of it this way.

WLB - We like guys that play MLB for most teams.
MLB - We like guys that play SAM for most teams...or short, stumpy MLBs.
SLB - We like guys that are former DEs.

There are exceptions. The Eagles shifted Fokou around and thought he looked best at SAM. That's why he's there. We tried Omar in the middle because he was a good tackler and natural leader. His lack of ideal athletic ability made WLB a poor fit, but would be okay at MLB. He wasn't physical enough, though.

Ideal guys

WLB - Shawn Barber
MLB - Stewart Bradley
SLB - Carlos Emmons

This offseason will be real interesting at LB. We know Stew and Spoon are set. We might need a SAM. We also might need some backups. I'm curious to see how they go about building this group back up and what kind of players McDermott brings in. Maybe he'll want some different types.

_

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Couple of Items

21 comments
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UPDATE

The Eagles fired STs coach Ted Daisher and hired Bobby April, recently let go by the Bills. One word ... YES!!! April is arguably the top STs coach in the league. He's creative and aggressive. He gets his guys to perform at a high level. Ted was up and down, but Bobby is a definite improvement.

______________________

The Eagles have apparently decided to make some changes on the staff, but not the guys that will get anyone excited. The team reportedly fired strength coaches Mike Wolf and Jay Merlino.

I don't have much insight into this move. Wolf has been here for 15 years. This could simply be Andy feeling like it was time for some new blood. I'm sure some fans will be howling about how our guys get pushed around, but that is anecdotal griping more than reality. Our team has changed in the last few years. Maybe it was time to change the way we have the guys work out.


THE TALENTED MR. SHIPLEY

The Eagles signed A.Q. Shipley when the season ended. He was a rookie this year, but spent the season on the Steelers Practice Squad. Shipley lacks ideal size at 6'1, 304. He doesn't have long arms. He is tough and tenacious. He's good on screen passes and blocking out in space.

Right now the C derby for next year should look like this:

1. Jamaal Jackson ... can he heal/recover in time to keep his job?
2. Nick Cole ... is he a FA or RFA? Can he adjust to playing C after a sloppy finish to '09?
3. Mike McGlynn ... is he good enough to earn a starting job?
4. Dallas Reynolds ... is he good enough to steal the starting job?
5. AQ Shipley ... is he worthy of a roster spot?


ANSWERS

RE: switch to 3-4

Won't happen. We're built to be a 3-4 team.

For argument's sake, here's the depth chart...

ROLB - Trent Cole, Chris Clemons
RDE - Trevor Laws, Darren Howard
RILB - Will Witherspoon, Akeem Jordan
NT - Mike Patterson , Antonio Dixon
LILB - Stewart Bradley
LDE - Brodrick Bunkley
LOLB - Chris Gocong, Juqua Parker


RE: McDermott / Personnel

The assistant coaches do have say in personnel matters. Andy, Howie, and the scouts will bring in the kind of players the coaches want, when that is possible. You don't want to pass on talent just for fit, but finding the right kind of players is very important.

I don't have any inside info to pass along as to what Sean may be looking for. I heard somewhere that he would prefer to play more press coverage. That's not a strong point for Sheldon or Asante. If we target a big, physical CB that will be a major hint.

Sean won't have so much pull that you should expect a LB to get taken in the 1st round. We're still going to build the team the same way. The difference might be that Sean would rather have a certain kind of LB or DB or what have you.


RE: Lane Kiffin

I'm not his biggest fan, but I think Lane might be less of an idiot/jerk than some think. He came to UT when UF and UGA were the clear powers in the divsion. LSU and 'Bama were clear powers in the West. Tennessee had to fight for the #5 spot in the SEC. Rather than go conventional, Lane opted for "there's no such thing as bad publicity". Sadly, it worked. Tennessee had a good recruiting class coming in. Kids fell for his schtick. Some kids go to Oregon for the 237 different uniforms they have. Kids are idiots.

Lane now heads to USC, an established brand name. He doesn't have to challenge Saban or Meyer. Lane will probably tone down his act. He's at the big school and doesn't have to create publicity anymore. If he still does this stuff, then he is a complete idiot.


RE: Greg Blache

One of my favorite assistant coaches. Always did more with less. Smart guy. I'm glad we no longer have to face him twice a year.


RE: FA names

Dunta Robinson - could definitely be a target
Kyle Vanden Bosch - not likely. More of a RDE.
Aaron Kampman - coming off ACL, but a classic LDE that we should take a look at.

_

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Answering Questions

12 comments
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There is no hot topic of the day so I'm going to address some recent questions.


RE: is Aaron Kampman a legit target

I think so. I doubt he will be the primary target at LDE because he tore his ACL in November. He's also 30 years old. Aaron came from the same draft class as Lito, Sheldon, and Mike Lewis. Aaron was a poor fit for the Packers new 3-4 scheme. He is a natural LDE. I think they will let him go and hope for a decent Comp. pick. Kampman is the type of player who would be a great fit for our style of play. He isn't an explosive athlete that just flies up the field. He understands about working up the field, but also playing the run as you go. If his knee were healthy Kampman would be a perfect target for us.


RE: will the 3 losses to Dallas have a ripple effect?

I hope so. In 2007 we got swept by the Giants. The first loss was by 13 points and was the Osi game. The second loss was by 3 points. We missed some key starters in the first loss and that made the game worse than it was. We didn't make a lot of special personnel changes due to those games, but we did make some changes in our strategy. We started keeping in extra blockers. We really helped our OL. We also made the running game more of a focal point against NY. Since then we are 4-1 vs the G-men.

Dallas didn't beat us in squeakers. They whipped our butts. We can make some schematic changes, but we also need some personnel moves. Andy Reid has made division games a focus since coming to Philly. I'm sure the losses to the Evil Empire will have a major impact on our offseason plans.


RE: defensive changes


Don't count on anything major. Execution trumps strategy in the NFL. Monte Kiffin had a very simple playbook at Tampa for his decade of running the defense. Was anyone better at D in that period? Green Bay had a good year in their new 3-4, but gave up 45 offensive points last week. We got destroyed by Dallas and only gave up 34. I know that Dallas changed in the 2nd half, but we also held them scoreless in the 1st Qtr. 27 of 34 points came in the 2nd Qtr. Depressing and amazing. The Patriots run one of the most complex schemes in the league. They gave up .9 less yards per game. Denver did some very creative stuff on defense. They gave up .8 points less per game. Scheme can be overrated.

Jim Johnson was a genius in 2000-2002. He had Hugh, Corey, Trot, Dawk, Troy, Bobby, Al, etc. He struggled in 2003 when that group was gone or injured. The D had problems in 2006 when some key guys got old and/or started to underachieve.

A good coach knows how to use good players and how to get good results. Sean will do a better job as we solve a few problems and get some stability. Would JJ have done a better job in 2009? Probably so. He's a mastermind. Sean is learning on the job. Don't fool yourself into thinking that Jim would have made the defense significantly better. That isn't the case.


RE: Zep reference

I'm glad someone got that. I am a huge Led head.


RE: Safety in 2010

Mikell did have a down year this season. There is no doubt about that. He wasn't awful, but he was too sloppy. Paul Domowitch recently speculated that Q might have been trying to do too much to cover up for FS problems. That makes a lot of sense to me. I do think Mikell will be better in 2010. There's no way FS is as much of a circus, if for no other reason than Demps and Macho will be a year older.

FS is going to be a real interesting position. The team wanted Demps to get the job. He dropped the ball. They had signed Sean Jones as insurance. He didn't impress over the summer. Rookie Macho Harris did impress and got the job. Things didn't work out great. The Eagles had a plan, a backup plan, and an emergency plan.

What will be the plan this year? We can have a competition for the job between Demps and Macho? We can draft a player, but he wouldn't be a sure thing to start in 2010. I don't know what the FA pool looks like now with the CBA mess. I don't have much interest in Sean Jones coming back. He's more of a SS.

Most of the good FA targets won't be FAs without a new CBA deal. That could limit our choices. Guys like OJ Atogwe and Nick Collins are playmakers. Antoine Bethea could be of interest. We just don't know if they'll be available. Ryan Clark of PIT is a veteran who could be of interest to come in here and help develop the young guys. One player I'd have interest in trading for is Vincent Fuller of the Titans. He's mainly been a backup, but he is productive and has solid cover skills.

I'd love to find a pro personnel solution, but in the end it may come down to a battle of Macho, Demps, and a rookie.


RE: blitzing - pressure & coverage


We do various kinds of blitzing. Our zone blitzes don't require press coverage. Those are plays where only 4 or 5 guys are coming so there are plenty of guys back in coverage. The goal is to fool the offense as to which players are rushing and which are dropping back.

Other plays we rush our DL and other players. The goal is to hit the QB or force a quick throw. You can play press coverage to try and limit offenses. You can also have your CBs play off and try to read the ball so they can break on it and try to come up with a pick. I can't say one system clearly works better than the other. The big problem this year was that we had coverage breakdowns.


RE: Could you pen any thoughts on the running game?

I don't write fiction.

I'll start thinking about that as I prepare for my Season Review stuff. Depressing stats.
_

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random Stuff

20 comments
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Hopefully everyone has settled down a bit. I don't know about you guys, but I'm having a hard time even remembering what happened in the 2009 season. That was ages ago...right?

I want to talk a little about Sean McDermott. It is hard to fully assess him after one season. That's just too small a sample. I thought he did a pretty solid job. The defense never hit the same roll that they did in 2008. We always had some player or group in a lull, mostly due to injuries. Still, it wasn't as if the defense was awful or anything like that.

We finished with 44 sacks, a good total. We had 25 INTs, the most of the Reid era. We finished 2nd in the league in takeaways and 3rd down percentage. We were 12th in total defense. The big problem we had was allowing points, mainly because of coverage breakdowns. We allowed the most TD passes of the Reid era. That was due to individual mistakes as well as communication breakdowns that left us dazed and confused.

The defense was without a pair of key leaders in Stewart Bradley and Brian Dawkins. Losing both of them and having a new coordinator made for some growing pains. The hope was that Mikell could be the guy to run the secondary and Stew would run the overall defense. That plan failed utterly when Stew selfishly tore his ACL just so he could catch up on old episodes of Law & Order: SVU.

We had a new Secondary coach in Brian Stewart. I have no decent way to evaluate him. Like the overall defense, the results were highly mixed. I don't know how much of the success Stewart should get credit for and I'm not sure how many of the problems were his fault. The loss of Dawk, injury to Sheldon, injury to Hobbs, and suspension of MmmBop made for a lot of shuffling. There's no way that all the change was a good thing. This was our worst secondary play since 2003 when we had all kinds of injuries.

Sean McDermott made some comments in a recent article about Asante Samuel not carrying out his assignment on a particular play. Was that an accident or intentional? Is Asante doing his own thing? Was he just taking advantage of the coaching changes? Remember substitute teachers? We all took advantage of them. My Latin class once convinced a woman that we were supposed to watch The Sheriff Lobo show. That's fine for high school punks, but not NFL players. McDermott and his staff need to lay down the law this year and get everyone on the same page. Missed coverages and blown gaps lead to TDs.

This was a learning experience for Sean. You know he has regrets from this year. Some will involve gameplans and schemes. He is probably mad at himself for shuffling players as much as he did. Jim Johnson was reticent to make changes. He needed something to be so painfully obvious that Ray Charles was yelling to bench the guy. Sean maybe went too far the other direction.

I do think McDermott will prove to be a good DC. I think he's eventually going to be a good HC. Trying to measure him will be tough. JJ is one of the best coaches of the last 30 years. Think about the great defensive minds of the NFL in that period:

* Buddy Ryan
* Dick LeBeau
* Bill Belichick
* Fritz Schurmur
* Bud Carson
* Monte Kiffin
* Dom Capers
* Floyd Peters

Jim is near the top of that group. It isn't fair to hold Sean to that standard. All we can ask is that he does a good job. If he can do great things, then that is even better. I just want to make sure we're fair with the guy.


PLAYERS TO TARGET

I'm starting to do my lists of FA and I've obviously been working on the draft since last June. Trying to get specific with draft targets takes some time because there are so many guys to consider.

Julius Peppers is a player that the FO will have to talk about. There are very few impact players available in free agency. He could be one. You have to consider that guy. The situation is tricky for many reasons. I'll do a whole post on JP sometime soon. He's more than just a couple of quick comments.

The key thing to remember is to always have backup scenarios. 32 teams will have some interest in Peppers. We need to look high and low to make sure we don't miss anything.

Something to keep in mind with draft talk is that we don't count on rookies to step in and start right away. Reggie's injury last year opened the door for DeSean. Kevin's injury this year opened the door for Maclin. Taking a FS or CB early this year doesn't mean that guy will be the starter. Rookies can get you killed. We've mixed them in when needed, but prefer to rely on other players.
_

Monday, January 11, 2010

Game Review is Posted

32 comments
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For intrepid souls only.

--LINK--


I know you may wonder about the wisdom of doing a review, but look at it as an autopsy. We do need to know what killed the 2009 Eagles.


THE NEW OLDSMOBILES ARE IN EARLY THIS YEAR!!! (aka GM NEWS)


The Browns are set to announce Tom Heckert as their new GM. Good luck to him.

Howie Roseman will move from Vice President of Player Personnel to either GM or President. The exact title isn't important. He'll be running the personnel side of things.

I know some people see Howie as a bean counter and have concerns with this. There are legitimate questions, but I tend to trust the judgment of Andy Reid. If he didn't like this move he wouldn't have signed a contract extension. Andy could have left town and used this as an excuse. Roseman is a Banner guy, but if Reid is okay with him that makes me feel better.

Say what you want about Big Red, but he knows who to hire and how to train them. Just look at the ex-Eagles around the league.


5 ALIVE


The big announcement at Reid's PC today was that Donovan McNabb would be returning as QB in 2010. Andy had to say this, folks. There is a very deliberate way of doing things, hallowed by usage and consecrated by time. The team has to say the safe thing initially. That way teams can't truly read their hand. If Big Red announces that Donovan is on the way out that hurts our leverage. This may seem somewhat dumb to logical people, but that's the bizarre nature of negotiations.

Donovan might return as QB. He might not. We won't find out for a while.

_

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Sun Came Up

19 comments
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Last night's disaster is still pretty painful today, but life must go on. The offseason has started. Be patient, though. Don't expect changes or moves to happen any time soon. We have to wait for certain dates until the team can actually make some moves. The uncertainty with the CBA situation makes even those dates uncertain.

There is a lot of anger with the Eagles players and coaches right now. That's to be expected, but it skews reality. We went 11-5, our best record since the SB season of 2004. We had one of the youngest teams in the NFL. We had some serious injury issues. We overcame the youth and injuries to have a strong season. This team is headed in the right direction.

Changes are needed. Not wholesale drastic changes. There is a lot more right than wrong with the Eagles. For that reason we can feel pretty good. The flip side of that is that going from good to very good can be the hardest progress to make. Think of the actual football field for comparison's sake. Moving the ball between the 20s is one level of difficult. Moving it inside the Red Zone is much harder. That's the difference between building a winning team and a championship team.

Where do we need to improve? The secondary is the group that needs the most help. FS is unsettled. Joselio Hanson struggled the last few weeks. Most distressing was the play of Sheldon Brown. Pro Bowl snub? Gimme a break. Last night he wasn't even a solid starter. I'm not sure what to make of this. Did injuries just catch up to him over the last month? Did facing a good passing attack just expose some issues that have been here a while?

The coaches know the answers to these questions better than us. Sheldon wanted a new deal last summer. I can't see the Eagles giving him a raise. My question is whether we think about moving him around. Could we move him to the slot? There is always the long discussed possibility of moving him to FS. One of the problems that Sheldon developed this year was taking risks. I think watching Asante had an effect on him. The problem is that Asante is a freak when it comes jumping routes. He's quick. He is very good at anticipating plays. He also has great hands and ball skills. Sheldon isn't gifted in these areas. He's okay, but nothing like Samuel.

If the team thinks Sheldon simply wore down due to injury then we are okay with the starters. We need to add a couple of CBs in the draft to act as insurance and to develop for the future. I mentioned Hason earlier. Dallas got the best of him a few times. We need to push him to be better.

I'm not going to get into all the possibilities at CB and FS (or other spots). We'll have plenty of time to discuss draft targets and possible FAs or trade targets.

The next position that is a major concern is LDE. Juqua Parker is an adequate starter, but we need better. He could be a very good backup. We need someone on that side who can consistently pressure the passer. This could be done through the draft or a pro personnel move.

The other area that needs help is the running game. Shady McCoy is going to be a very good runner. Leonard Weaver is a good FB and runs well from the one back set. Brian Westbrook probably played his last game as an Eagle last night. The fact he was used so little last night is writing on the wall. I'd like to see us bring in a runner that is in the 215-225 pound range. That way we can have a RB with some size running behind Weaver in the I-formation.

In 5 of the last 6 games our RBs totaled less than 80 yards. I'm not counting Vick's yards in those totals. He did get some RB-like carries. I think the McCoy/Weaver combo is a good foundation, but we need another quality back in the mix. We must be able to run the ball effectively against good defenses.

I'm sure many of you will talk about LB problems. That group will get a huge boost with the return of Stewart Bradley. Will Witherspoon will be the WLB. Yesterday we rotated Chris Gocong and Moise Fokou at SAM. I thought that combination worked pretty well. I'm certainly open to adding a LB, especially an impact type player, but I think that is a longshot.

The OL should be better next year when Stacy Andrews is healthy and better adjusted to our style of doing things. Jason Peters should be better. Maybe Winston Justice can improve. The big question will be what happens at C. Jamaal Jackson has a torn ACL and has to be considered a question mark for September. Nick Cole was somewhat disappointing at C, but he would have a lot of practice time to work out some kinks. Mike McGlynn also deserves a chance to fight for that job. I doubt the Eagles make an outside move, but never say never.

Donovan McNabb's future is going to be a great subject of debate over the next 6 to 8 weeks. I'm not super happy with Donnie right now, but I want to re-watch part of the game and study his season as a whole before making any pronouncements. There is a definite argument to dealing him, but you better be darn sure when talking about trading a franchise QB.

To sum everything up I can only think of two words...Go Vikings!!!

(for this week at least)
_

Rock Bottom

35 comments
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That was an awful finish to a really fun year. Who ever thought that 11-5 would give you the #6 seed in the NFC? There have been plenty of years when it felt like 8-8 would get you that spot.

Dallas was the better team tonight. Simple as that.

Donovan McNabb is supposed to be a star QB. He didn't play like that tonight. Frankly, he was awful. At one point Tony Romo was 5 of 6 on 3rd downs and McNabb was struggling to complete any pass. He wasn't clutch. McNabb made poor decisions and poor throws. Very frustrating performance.

I'm not going to get into offseason talk tonight. I'm too bitter and I've had too much beer. My plans right now would be a tad idiotic (can we find some guys that don't suck?).

I am happy with Sean McDermott and the defense. Sean called a good game. The D gave up yards and points, but they were hurt by the lack of offense. Dallas ran more than 70 plays. We were in the mid 50s. The D was aggressive and played hard. They had some mistakes as well, but at least we went down swinging.

Losing to Dallas in the playoffs is about as bad as it gets. Wade and Romo and Jerry Jones having a smile-fest is basically my personal version of hell. Last year Dallas got humiliated by us and made some major changes. It will be interesting to see if the reverse is true for us. We do have to take into account the fact that we had one of the youngest teams in the league and injuries started to really hurt. Who knew Jamaal Jackson was so important?

Have some more beers. We'll talk tomorrow.
_

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Game Night - Wildcard

146 comments
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One day the Eagles will win the Super Bowl. Could be this year, 5 years from now, or 75 years from now. You never know when it will happen.

Enjoy the ride, not just the destination.

Let's hope the Eagles give us a good show tonight.

GO EAGLES !!!

_

Game Preview - Playoffs - @ Dallas

36 comments
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Last week the kid down the block beat the crap out of us. He bloodied our nose, stole our lunch (including my chocolate pudding), and sent us on our way. We could avoid the kid. We could hope someone else beats him up. Or we could go back to his house and kick his @ss ourselves. I say we do that.

Don't be scared of this game or the Cowboys. They have a good team. No one disputes that. Their defense is playing well, their QB is hotter right now, and they're doing all the little things. I don't care. I want a chance to go down there and kick some butt. This is the freaking playoffs we're talking about. Survive and advance. Style points don't exist.

Last week was 24-0. Dallas isn't going to play much better. We're not likely to play anywhere near that poorly. This game will be different. I can't guarantee we'll win, but I do guarantee that you'll see a completely different Eagles team tonight. We beat them in 2007 in Dallas after losing to Seattle. We beat them in 2008 in Philly after losing to Washington. We seem to get fired up for Dallas when coming off a loss. I will be shocked if our guys give anything less than a great effort tonight. That's only part of the battle. We must execute. That is the real key. Even in the playoffs football boils down to blocking, tackling, and carrying out basic assignments. I’m here to tell you the Eagles can win this game. Here’s how.

We’ll start on defense. I’ve talked quite a bit about the need to be more aggressive. I am not telling Sean McDermott to be reckless. He must be sound and limit the times he goes all out, but there is a need to be creative and aggressive. Dallas went 11-5 this year. Two of the losses were to the New York Giants. The other losses were to Denver, Green Bay, and San Diego. What do those three teams have in common? They all run the 3-4 defense.

The point I’m getting at is the importance of pre-snap confusion. Teams that run the 3-4 will normally send at least four rushers. The offense sees the defensive linemen, but doesn’t know which linebacker will rush. This confusion affects the quarterback in his pre-snap reads. It also affects the linemen as they try to figure out who to block. The Giants did a lot of stuff to confuse Dallas in their second game this year. The Giants had most guys standing upright and moving around so that the Cowboys would not know who was rushing and where exactly they were coming from. This tactic was very effective.

If I know this you can bet McDermott does as well. We did little of this last week. I will be highly surprised if we don’t do more of it this time around. The basis of good defense is winning one-on-one battles, but there is nothing wrong with some tactical advantages. The goal on Saturday night is to have Tony Romo thinking and not smiling. Hit him. Confuse him. Keep him off balance. Last week might as well have been a 7-on-7 drill at training camp. This week must be different.

We are a blitzing team. Do what you do. We must blitz. There is risk involved. I accept that. We might give up plays. I can live with mistakes as long as they come with us playing our brand of football. There is an old Latin phrase that fits this situation well. It translates to “fortune favors the bold”. Take some chances. Be aggressive. Don’t be careless or dumb, of course. Fortune does not favor the stupid.

We can’t attack on every play and that means that the defensive line must win some battles. Trent Cole needs to step up his game and be the leader up front. He was far too quiet on Sunday. Cole hasn’t had consecutive bad games all year. I think he will be a man on a mission. We’ll need him to be a force against the run as well as getting after the quarterback.

McDermott has a key decision to make at linebacker. I think he has to start out with Jeremiah Trotter in the middle. Trotter was the best linebacker last week and played the run very well. He also brought a lot of fire and energy to the defense. Sometimes that stuff can be overrated, but it was important on Sunday. We needed a spark. It was too little too late for that game, but I’m hoping that some of that emotion can carry over to this week.

The downside to starting Trotter is that he’s limited in coverage. That puts additional pressure on the outside linebackers as well as the safeties. I think that is a risk we must take. We need a physical presence in the middle of the defense. We cannot allow the Cowboys to run. At some point you have to pick your poison. You can't stop everything when you face a talented, balanced team. There is logic to focusing on either the run or pass. I think we need to focus on the run. Part of the problem last week was that Dallas was able to establish a ground game and get our pass rushers on their heels. The Dallas line played with confidence. Our guys were uncertain what play was coming and we lost the line of scrimmage. We were more aggressive in the second half and that showed up in run and pass defense.

I'm not advocating loading up the box with a bunch of defenders. I think the free safety needs to stay back. Quintin Mikell can sneak up on some plays to create an eight-man front. Most of the time we need the front seven to control the run. The best way to do that is with Trotter in the middle. SAM linebacker is another spot where McDermott has to make a choice. Moise Fokou gives us speed. Chris Gocong gives us experience and physicality. The guys split time in practice this week. I've gone back and forth with what to do, but I'm now thinking that Gocong should be the choice. He can take on blocks because of his size and strength. He's also a better blitzer. No matter which player gets the call, he has to do a better job of jamming Jason Witten so he doesn't get a clean release on pass plays. Throw off his timing. Make him work to get open.

I don't know that the secondary needs a lot of schematic or personnel changes. We had defenders very close to breaking up several passes last week. We need the guys to make plays this time around. Let's win some individual battles and stop Dallas drives.

That same theme should largely be true for the offense. We had players open on several occasions only to see some breakdown. The design worked well, but not the execution. The Cowboys will adjust to what they saw so we'll need a few wrinkles. The real key is for Donovan McNabb to come out and play well.

McNabb has made plenty of big plays in his Eagles career. He's won us some big games and played well in the postseason. That's the guy we need to see. He played well last year as we made a run through the playoffs. McNabb doesn't need to be Superman and carry the team on his back. That was the case back in 2000 and 2001. Now McNabb has a strong supporting cast. He simply needs to use his weapons effectively.

The young skill players had mixed showings last week. For every good play there was also a mistake. We can't have that in the playoffs. The receivers must run correct routes and catch the ball when it comes to them. Dropped passes are backbreakers. The line has done its job. The quarterback has done his job. The receiver has gotten open. The last part of the equation is the catch. You hate to see guys drop passes, especially downfield or on third downs. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are dynamic talents. We need to get them the ball on both shallow and deep routes. One player I would like to see more involved is Jason Avant. He’s only got six catches in the last four games combined.

We do need to run the ball more. Last week's score affected the playcalling, but we have to run more no matter what. The offense needs the balance and the running backs need the touches. Brian Westbrook was the primary runner on Sunday. I'm thinking we feed the ball more to LeSean McCoy this time around to take advantage of his speed. We know there will be plenty of two and three yard gains. McCoy gives us the chance to break a 15 to 20 yard run. Even if we don't gain a lot of yards we need to keep the Cowboys off balance. We don't want their front seven being able to tee off and attack McNabb.

I thought the offensive line did some good things in pass protection last week, at least in the first half. Now we need to get better run blocking and good pass blocking for the whole game. Linemen had some costly penalties. Dallas is a tough team to move the ball on. We can't afford to have dumb penalties that stack the odds against us even more. Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles have now gotten more than seven quarters of time in their spots. This group has no excuses. They can and should play well.

Andy Reid has won 10 playoff games in his career. He knows how to prepare a team for the postseason. He understands how to deal with the pressure of the situation. You want the players fired up, but also focused. This is an especially odd playoff game. We’ve faced Dallas twice already and just played them last week. I don’t think there will be a lot of new wrinkles for each team. We simply must execute better.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Big play touchdowns – We have had potential touchdown passes go awry in each Dallas game. This week we need to connect. They have a good defense. It is hard to sustain a long drive and score a touchdown on them. We must make big plays pay off in points.

Get off blocks – Defensive linemen and linebackers need to shed blocks. On pass plays they need to get free so we can pressure Romo. On run plays they need to get to the ball and tackle. Dallas did an excellent job of sustaining blocks last week. Our guys have to win individual battles. Jeremiah Trotter did a terrific job of this on Sunday. We need more of the same from him.

Ground game – We only had a handful of carries last time out. This problem is on the coaches and the players. Marty Mornhinweg must dial up more run plays. The offensive line needs to do a better job of opening holes. Finally, the runners must make something happen. Coaches don’t draw up a run play for every defender to get blocked. They know at some point the running back will need make a defender miss or run through an arm tackle.

Field position – In the two losses to Dallas most of the drives have started at our 20-yard line or worse. Quintin Demps and DeSean Jackson need to help us in the return game. As little as five extra yards can make a difference. David Akers errant field goal last week would probably have been good if he was just a bit closer. A long return could have tremendous impact. Jackson did that last year in the Wildcard win over Minnesota.

Get there – There is an old saying that “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”. How many times last week was a defender about to make a play, but he just missed? We were oh so close. Asante Samuel barely missed two passes. One was a touchdown. The other turned into a 40-yard gain. Quintin Mikell just missed breaking up a throw to Jason Witten. There were multiple run plays where a tackler just missed getting the Dallas runner down for a minimal gain. This time out we need to finish plays. Knock down the ball. Make the tackle. Hit the quarterback. Being close isn’t good enough.

Stars must shine – Jackson has been quiet in the Dallas losses. Same for Maclin. Same for McNabb. Same for all the running backs. In the postseason you need your stars to play up to their talent. Does Arizona go to the Super Bowl last year without Larry Fitzgerald having a record setting performance in the playoffs? No way. We need good games from the skill guys as well as Trent Cole and Samuel. The best players are supposed to make big plays in these types of situations.

Land some shots – I don’t think we have any chance to win unless we pressure Tony Romo and get some good hits on him. If he sits in the pocket smiling and comfortable we are going to have a miserable weekend. Sean McDermott should come up with an aggressive gameplan. That gives us our best chance to succeed. It is then up to the players to hit Romo, early and often. Let’s make his day miserable, hit after hit.

*****

The first half is crucial in this game. We've trailed halftime of both losses to Dallas. We scored 6 points in those 4 quarters. We must get a TD in the first half tonight. Having the lead would be huge. The pressure is on Dallas tonight. They're back to being America's Team. They won the division and things are peachy. But they still need to win in the postseason. The longer we have the lead or the game stays close the more their playoffs problems will be an issue. All it takes is a missed FG or key dropped pass or missed tackle and those guys will start thinking about the drought.

Let's start fast, be physical, and watch the 'Boys implode under the pressure.
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