Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Column Posted


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.


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.


Boyboy said...

Just read the PE.com article. A new labor deal isn't looking promising at the moment and a lockout in 2011 is very possible. Wouldn't that be even more of a reason to push all the chips in and make some plays on RFAs? The Eagles obviously like to build through the draft but there are, in my opinion, but there are negatives to that approach.

For every draft pick that we've hit on, there's been a miss or two. People point to the Redskins as a reason not to rely on free agency, however, they're a clueless organization. It's not that they're signing bad players -- they either sign the wrong players or they just don't know what to do with the players they get.

Personally, I've always felt that restricted free agency is underutilized. Teams treasure their draft picks so much that they don't want to part with a 2nd, 3rd or 4th round pick for an experienced (but still youthful) veteran. They opt instead to gamble on the unknown -- a rookie. Not to mention, RFAs come with some pretty managageble contracts.

Anyway, some other thoughts...

We still need some pass rush from our DTs. I'm not sure what happened to Broderick Bunkley. He came out of of FSU as a guy who was known for wreaking havoc in the backfield. I've heard it said that it's the way we like our DTs to play (two gap, I guess it is), when he was a great one gap player in college. If that's true, that's where f'n schemes start to piss me off. Tailor your schemes to your players, not the other way around. Talented players win championships, not schemes.

Also, we made a lot of gambles on the OL this year and in the end, it didn't turn out too well. I'm not confident with Stacy Andrews at guard, nor am I confident in Nick Cole or Mike McGlynn at guard. And Jason Peters needs to be a lot more consistent in year #2 here. Still a lot of question marks, to me.

Pitmanite said...

i'll be devastated if they select a RB in the first 3 rounds. i'd much rather they get guys who can help on defense or an o-lineman. it doesn't make sense to draft a guy who won't play. if we draft a promising RB it will just torture us to sit there and talk about all the possible ways he can help us, and then see him carry the ball 1 or 2 times per game. they'll end up splitting carries 3 ways: weaver 4 carries, shady 3 carries and player x 2 carries. unless we play a shitty team, then will get a lead and run the ball when it doesn't count just to torture us a little more to show us how effective we can be as an offense when we run the ball.

Cliff said...

Boyboy, I have to disagree with you on the OL. Stacey Andrews wasn't healthy enough to ever get in a groove and stay on the field, so I guess that was a "gamble." But, Nick Cole played very well at guard (both LG and RG). Why the lack of confidence? Stacey should be the starter next season and Cole with be a solid back-up.

Peters looked a lot more comfortable as the season went on. There were still too many penalties from him, I agree.

We didn't see hardly any of McGlynn, so I don't know how you could feel one way or the other. He was brought here to be the center of the future and/or light a fire under Jackson's blubbery butt.

Finally, what about the gamble at OL that paid off? Winston Justice was a model of consistency all season long. Going in to next season we'll only have one real question mark on the OL: center. I'd say 4 out of 5 isn't bad for a team that "gambled" so much.

rick said...

We all know what we need. A FS, a LDE, a SLB, O-line help, and a RB. To me, the first three are priorities, o-line help will come in rounds 5 - 7 is my guess. I'm thinking RB with either our 2nd pick in the 3rd or the 4th. Tommy, what do you think of McCluster ---- and what round might he fall?

Adam said...

Tommy what are your thoughts on this running back from the CFL Martell Mallett who the eagles just signed? Is he just a training camp/practice squad body or is there potential for more?

Cliff said...

I want to comment on the DT's too. I was also disappointed that Bunkley only registered 1 sack this season, but I don't buy the TATE hype over the "scheme" being the cause of this.

Bunk only had 1 sack, but he had 4 passes defensed. Maybe Bunk focused on getting up in the air and batting balls down more this season instead of staying low and fighting to get to the QB. The focus on one technique over the other could very well explain a slight reduction in sacks. I mean, that explanation is just as plausible as "the scheme did it."

And look a the league-wide stats. Out of the top 100 players in sacks, I count 5 DT/NT's. The most sacks by a DT is 6, The 5th DT in the top 100 had 4. So we're talking about 3 sacks separating Bunkley from being in the top 5 for sacks at the DT spot.

Finally, how many of Howard's sacks came from the DT spot? Abiamiri had 2, did one of those come from DT? The other starting DT - Mike Patterson - had 1.5 sacks.

Anyway, the overall point I'm trying to make is that our DL as a whole struggled to get pressure this year, yet we finished 3rd in sacks with 44. Instead of blaming a "scheme" that obviously worked, perhaps we should see what Bunk can do when he has a decent LDE next to him or a good back-up DT to sub him once in a while.

Boyboy notes that Bunk had a great reputation as a pass rusher at FSU. He also had a reputation as someone who didn't commit himself to training and preparation (don't most FSU guys?). How do we know that didn't effect his play? You can't use the good things without mentioning the bad things about Bunk's college career.

Cliff said...

Rick, I asked Tommy the same thing about McCluster a few weeks ago. I think he's an underclassman and isn't eligible for the draft.

I could be wrong.

Pitmanite said...

I'm not as down as boyboy on the OL, but I'm not as optimistic as you cliff. i think we should and will add a couple pieces for some competition and depth.

re: RB
i feel for you guys who are talking about RBs. let's hope we don't pick one before the 5th rd or later. we don't use our RBs fellas. why would you want to pick one in the 3rd rd? let's just look at a guy like buck. i know he wasn't a world beater, but he ran hard and often didn't go down on 1st conatct. he averaged 5 ypc in '07 and '08. every time he got in the game he was effective both as a runner and receiver (avg 8 ypc '07 & 12 ypc '08). he was a good change of pace from westy, and it was so frustrating watching them sit him on the sideline.

he went to denver this year, and he had 37% more carries with them than in 2008 and 50% more carries than 2007. oh and he averaged 5.4 ypc! we had a 223 lb RB who has averaged 5 ypc for 3 yrs in a row and we didn't use him at all!!!!! so it's silly to me to hear people excitedly talking about our options in the draft to find a bigger back in the draft as if it will actually make a diff in our offense. shonn greene would be getting 1 or 2 touches per game in our offense and they justify it by telling us that he's not picking up the playbook!

did i set a record for exclamation points?

rick said...

@Pitmanite: YES!!!!!!! Seriously, you are right that we're probably just spinning our wheels here (but that's half the fun). I questioned whether Andy could 'change his stripes' last week. As Tommy just said too, he pulled a few surprises in the last off-season and it would be nice if that continued. Yeah but asking Andy to run more is probably asking too much.

@Cliff: Thanks for the reminder. I thought I'd seen that name in these pages before. I checked out his highlights/lowlights at the same site that was posted for Jerry Hughes, I think by Edward. Apparently he IS a graduating senior and looks great on tape but he's quite light - smaller than DeSean! at 5'9", 170 lbs. On tape, he looks powerful - I assumed he was a bigger back.

Edward said...

@ Rick

If we don't get a good vet corner or highish draft pick there i'm gonna be worried.

There's a good post on igglesblog about our covereage and whose fault it was. Safety and Lb came out as the biggest problems but corner is a position in decline on this team and we could really use some depth and someone to develop. That website the post links to also thinks nothing of our pass rush.
Bunk and Pat rate absolutely appallingly as pass rushers and its our DE's that stop our pass rush rating being near the bottom of the league.

I don't know what's up with Bunk and Pat. They had 7 sacks between them 2 years ago. A year when we had far less sack production strangely.

Edward said...

That was at your first post Rick not the latest :D

Chris said...

We could use another CB too as Sheldon is getting old and Asante refuses to press (resulting in all those WR screens thrown against us). What do you think of Patrick Robinson from Florida State? He has good size for a CB (a little under 6', 195), actually does tackle people and has incredible speed (he chased Noel Devine down from 10 yards back in the Gator Bowl).

Boyboy said...

If you look at the OL as a whole, they just didn't play well down the stretch. Cole is an adequate starter, nothing more nothing less. Justice was solid but doesn't stand out either way -- and he wasn't a gamble, he was thrown out there out of necessity. As for McGlynn, they like him as center but he didn't get a shot when JJ went down. Instead, the Eagles opted to let Cole and MJG struggle, so how ready is MM? We can hope Andrews fully recovers and that Peters becomes more consistent. We can hope that MM can replace JJ. There is just too much uncertainty for my liking.

Maybe you diagree with my individual assesment of players, but look at it from a different angle. At their best this year, the OL was solid in pass protection and only average at run blocking. That just isn't good enough for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. They were flat out manhandled during their last 10 quarters of football. How much confidence can you really have for the unit in 2010 if they're bringing back this same group?

Re. Bunkley

When I talked about the scheme, I was sort of refering to technique. The technique that you ask your players to use is part of the scheme. I like Bunkley. I'm just wondering if maybe he's not best suited for the technique that he's being asked to play. And you're right, the DL as a unit struggled, not just Bunk. I only mentioned him because I'm shocked that he hasn't become a more of a force in the sacks / TFL department.

Also, the scheme does work, but not well enough. We rely on it too much to generate pressure and turnovers. When we face good teams, we struggle. If you look at all of those NFCCG losses, the defense was lackluster in the sacks and turnover department. And that's what the scheme is predicated on. Obviously, it's not all on the scheme and it's not all the players. You need the right mixture.

H said...

@ Tommy

Patiently waiting for that McNabb/Kolb article. Getting posted today?

izzylangfan said...

You don't expect DT's to get a lot of sacks (other than perhaps third and long with the pass rush specialists in). But what you do want them to do is cause disruption. They can do this by getting push on the OL and closing down the ability of the QB to step up in the pock or by finding a gap to force the double team or flush the QB. Bunk and Patt do not cause much disruption on pass plays.

The Eagles use their DT's in a two gap scheme. However, when the blitz is on (which it frequently is with the Eagles) everyone has one gap only to control including the DT's. Bunk and Patt have not created much disruption in that situation either. It is still the defensive ends and the blitzing backfield that gets most of the sacks.

The inability of the Eagles to get consistent pressure with out blitzing and particularly pressure up the middle is one of the Eagles greatest defensive weaknesses, in my view. This year in order to get pressure up the middle we sometimes moved Trent Cole and thus lost our best asset off the edge. I think this can work as a surprise tactic once in a blue moon but otherwise has little benefit. I believe also that successful blitzes up the middle would result in some turnovers if our opponents want to persist with the wide receiver screens that gashed us so badly in 2009.

Tommy, it would be great if you wrote a piece on the Eagles defensive strategy re line play and blitzing while noting what our opponents have done to counter it and what corrections we need to make in personnel, scheme, and tactics.

rick said...

@Edward: Yes, I agree (& forgot) - CB, probably by the 1st pick of 3rd rd.

Edward said...

Antonio Dixon gets rated remarkably highly on profootballfocus. If he improves over the offseason which he should if he works, he could push Patt for playing time.