Monday, May 24, 2010

Announcement Time

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I mentioned several weeks ago that I was going to be making some changes to the site.  My original goal for Eagles Blitz was to keep things simple.  That changed.  Readership in the last 6 months has more than tripled.  Those numbers will continue to rise.  With that in mind, I decided the site needed to look more professional.  I talked about switching to Wordpress and started doing research on HTML, PHP, and CSS.  That made May one strange month for me. 

Late last week my friend Sam sent me an email.  He knew I was making changes to the site and asked if I had any interest in joining another site.  Sam is one of the 3 guys who runs Iggles Blog.  I hadn't strongly considered anything like that recently.  I sort of enjoyed the independence of doing my own thing. 

I started to think about his idea.  I had read something at Iggles Blog recently that really stuck with me.  Derek had a blurb up about how much good Eagles coverage there is.  PE.com is the best team site in the league.  Blogs like Bleeding Green Nation, Iggles Blog, 700 Level, and so many more provide fans with independent opinions and analysis.  The Philly media does a terrific job of covering the team.  We pick on them at times for their love of controversy, but go check out how many articles are written about the Cardinals or Colts.  Those fan bases have nothing to read.  We're very lucky. 

Back to my point.  With the saturation of Eagles coverage already in place was there a good reason for me to spend time designing, working on, and expanding my blog?  I'm a football guy, not a web guy.  I started to think more about moving over to Iggles Blog. 

Derek sent me an email and made some good points.  Our sites have many of the same readers.  Both sites are somewhat unusual.  This isn't simplistic Eagles talk.  We believe in detailed analysis (some might change that phrase to long-winded analysis).  There was a lot of logic to joining forces instead of me trying to update/expand Eagles Blitz. 

I talked to Derek on the phone.  I threw about 1.4 million ideas at him.  Strangely, he didn't hang up on me.  I figure that if he can withstand that kind of barrage he might just be a good guy. 


I finally decided that the prudent move would be to go over to Iggles Blog.  We already have many of the same readers, so this will ease things on those people who had to keep up with both sites.  There are times when Derek and I write about the same things.  This will lessen the burden on us as we can now share those duties.  I have tremendous respect for Sam, BountyBowl, and Derek.  They built a quality site that provides outstanding content.  I wouldn't go over there if I didn't personally like the site. 

I will continue to post at a similar rate.  We'll work to have a post up every day this spring/summer.  Football isn't happening, but that hardly means there isn't anything worth writing about.  I will continue my "unique" writing style.  Stories will focus on the Eagles, but Buddy Ryan, Megan Fox, and Spinal Tap references will abound.  I'll answer questions in the comments section as always.  Everyone who comments here is encouraged to go over there and be an active participant. 

Feel free to ask any questions you might have.  I can't imagine there will be any serious objections, but voice them if you have them.  We are Eagles fans after all. 

The move will happen as of effective today.  I'll stop by here to read comments on this, but my future posts will be on Iggles Blog

Thank you for all your support in helping this blog to grow over the last couple of years.  I'd especially like to thank Bill C. and Adam H. for helping me when I was making plans for a new site.  Thanks guys. 


Tommy
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flexibility

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A couple of days ago a reader brought up the point of how versatile the Eagles roster is.  There really are a lot of guys who can do multiple things. 

Start with the WRs.  DeSean Jackson is a weapon, not just a WR.  He's deadly as a punt returner.  He's deadly on short passes and deep balls.  He also is so gifted as a runner that he gets mixed into the run game on a regular basis.  Jeremy Maclin showed this kind of potential in college, but we sure didn't see it last year.  Now that he's got a year under his belt I'm hoping that he's more natural as a RS and when he gets to run the ball.  Even Jason Avant is a bit unusual.  We ran a WR screen to him against the Bears.  It wasn't the usual screen.  Avant came in motion to the formation.  He blocked the DE, then released and caught the pass.  Avant ran 13 yards for a TD.  That's almost a TE kind of play.  You can't use that type of screen with just any WR. 

Brent Celek is a pure TE.  Cornelius Ingram and Clay Harbor are athletic guys who can be moved around.  Ingram can split out wide like a receiver.  He lacks ideal speed, but at times will look like a WR.  Harbor can be an H-back or FB as well as TE.  We can get very creative with how to use him, depending on his blocking skills. 

LeSean McCoy isn't Westy, but he looks like he can be an above average receiver out of the backfield.  Leonard Weaver and Charles Scott can both play RB and FB.  Weaver is a gifted receiver.  Scott doesn't have much experience, but Dave Spadaro was impressed with his hands in the recent rookie camp. 

The O-line isn't really fair to cover.  Those guys have to be versatile. 

We have a lot of versatile guys in the front seven on defense.  Juqua Parker, probably the most underrated Eagle, can play DE, LB, and has even logged snaps at DT for us.  Trent Cole can play some LB in certain sets.  I think Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham will also be guys that can move around for us.  Ricky Sapp and Alex Hall are getting looked at in multiple positions as we try to figure out where to play them.  Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will play as much at DT this year as he will at DE.  If healthy, Victor Abiamiri's main contribution will be at DT in the Nickel/Dime. 

Stewart Bradley was drafted to play SAM, but is now our MLB.  Omar Gaither has started at WLB and MLB.  Akeem Jordan is training to play at all 3 LB spots.  Moise Fokou is our SAM, but has practiced at the other spots as well.  Rookie Jamar Chaney can play MLB or WLB. 

The secondary is almost too complicated to cover.  I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the show M*A*S*H.  Klinger takes a letter to Col. Blake's office to ask to go home.  His father is "dying".  Then Col. Blake pulls out Klinger's file and reads previous letters.  Each letter has a family member sick, pregnant, or dying and requests his return to help.  Then Blake pulls out his favorite letter from the file..."half the family pregnant, half the family dying."  Classic. 

Half our secondary are Safeties that can play CB.  The other half are CBs that can play Safety.  At least that is the way it feels. 

This versatility gives the coaches a lot of freedom to be creative with their schemes and gameplans.  I expect Marty Mornhinweg and Sean McDermott to be very creative this year.  You can argue whether that's a good or bad thing.  I think some people mistake complex schemes for good schemes.  Tampa won a SB with a very simple defense in 2002.  Pittsburgh won with a basic offense back in 2005.  They mixed in trick plays, sure, but it wasn't generally complicated.  The simple runs plays lulled you to sleep and allowed the tricks to be effective.  The Giants offense in 2008 wasn't exactly Martzian.  Last year the Saints ran a very complex offense and did some great things.  Their defense got complicated as needed and had some very effective gameplans. 

As the old saying goes, to thine own self be true.  Our coaches like complex concepts.  We have smart and versatile players.  That will allow the coaches to do the things they like.  Now it is up to the coaching staff to develop good ideas and teach them during the spring and summer.  Then we find out if the players can execute them during the year. 


COMPETITION

There will be some really interesting camp battles this year.   We're hearing a lot of good things about WR Riley Cooper.  WR Chad Hall is another guy of real interest.  Could they force out a veteran like Hank Baskett?  You bet. 

A few people have wondered about RB Mike Bell.  I think he'd have to really struggle in order not to make it.  Remember, the Eagles aggressively went after him.  They don't cut guys like that unless the situation clearly calls for it. 

We can sit here and predict cuts, but the reality is that we have to watch the players in action.  Jobs will be won and lost on the field.  Quintin Demps could go from zero to hero with a good showing this summer.  Trevor Laws will either earn more playing time or a pink slip based on how he plays.  Performance is the name of the game.  Juqua Parker was brought here in 2005 as a longshot free agent.  He's still here.  JP earns a roster spot every year by playing his butt off up at Lehigh.  One thing I love about the way the Eagles do business is that everyone is given a fair chance.  Sure, I'll label some guys as camp bodies.  That doesn't mean they won't be given a chance to make it.  The odds are against them (limited reps and lots of good competition), but we see guys surprise us every year by earning a roster spot or Practice Squad spot.  That's the beauty of Training Camp. 
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Trust & Some Sixers News

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Football players are liars.  At least that is true much of the time.  I love the game and I love players, but they are generally the worst source of info.  Players exaggerate, good and bad.  They tell you what they think you want to hear.  Half the time I think they are trying to convince themselves that something is true. 

I mention this in regard to things we'll hear this summer from players about where they are.  The Eagles have several guys coming off injury.  All of them are fine.  Actually, awesome.  They will all start and feel the best they ever have.  Super Bowl, here we come. 

Okay, I'm exaggerating a wee bit (I use the word wee to honor Craig Ferguson.  He now has the best sidekick in late night history - Geoff Peterson).  Some players are doing well.  It sounds like Stewart Bradley is in excellent shape and will play at a high level.  Other players I'm less certain about. 

Marlin Jackson talked to the media on Wednesday about how good he felt and how well he moved.  Les Bowen said that "He ran with a noticeable limp...".  GCobb mentioned something very similar.  Another beat writer used the words "still hobbling".  Marlin feels great that he's on the field and running around.  We can't confuse how he feels with how he looks. 

Cornelius Ingram is back.  Expect him to be a little rusty.  He tore his ACL last August.  That's plenty of recovery time, but the Eagles have moved him along slowly to make sure he heals right.  I'm sure his body will have an adjustment period as he gets re-accustomed to running around and making football moves.  Jogging is one thing.  Running a pass pattern is completely different (unless your name is Moss or Owens and you decided to take the play off).  Ingram said all the right things to PE.com, but he's nowhere close to 100%. I think he'll work into pretty good shape and I expect him to be the backup TE this year.  He still has about 8 weeks until the pads go on at Training Camp.  He'll improve quite a bit between now and then. 

Very few people in society like to be critical of themselves.  Football players are no different.  There is no game film to study so guys can say whatever they want.  Of course most will be overly positive.  I'm not trying to pick on these guys, but the reality is that you can't trust what most players say to the media, especially what players say during the spring and summer. We have to listen to and read what they say because there isn't any game action and we're all dying for any decent football talk.  Just keep in mind who the messenger is when taking in stories and interviews.  

CAMP NOTES

* Jamar Chaney got snaps at WLB.  He played there as a Sophomore so the position isn't entirely foreign to him. 

* Quintin Demps spoke to the media and said all the right things yesterday.  He got a big piece of humble pie last summer when Macho got his starting job.  Actions speak louder than words.  We need to see Q back up his talk with what he does on the field.  The fact we drafted 2 Safeties tells you that the Eagles don't fully trust him.  Q is a good KOR and still has the potential to be a starting S.  He's got to convert talent and potential into work and production.  Both Q and Max talked about their wife and family affecting their more serious approach to the game and their careers.  Let's hope that is true and both players play accordingly. 

* I mentioned yesterday that Nate Allen is fully healthy and practicing.  This really is great news.  We need him and Marlin Jackson to fight for the FS job.  Allen is the complete package, but only a rookie.  Marlin is the talented veteran, but has the bum knee(s).  I want Nate to get as many reps as possible so that he's can win the job or at least make it tough for the coaches to choose between him and Jackson.  Macho somewhat got the job by default last year.  We need someone to outright win the FS spot this time around. 


SIXERS TALK

The basketball gods are confused.  They screwed up and somehow gave the Sixers the #2 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.  This is sort of exciting, even for a passive NBA fan like myself. 

My first sports love was Dr. J.  I have been a Sixers fan since 1976 (ironically, I guess).  That was the year that Doc moved from the Nets to Philly.  Listening to Dave Zinkoff do the pre-game intro for Erving used to give me goose bumps.  Still does, actually.  The team added guys like Bobby Jones, Mo Cheeks, and Andrew Toney.  What wasn't to love?  Then came Moses Malone and a title.  Life was good. 

Harold Katz broke the team up quickly enough.  The Sixers managed to remain pretty good in the late 80s with Charles Barkley.  Once he was gone the team fell apart.  I kept my interest as long as I could, but football became my passion.  The team drafted Allen Iverson and things began to look up when he and Larry Brown got together.  The trip to the Finals in 2001 was magical.  I loved over-achievers like Aaron McKie and Eric Snow.  That group fell apart quickly and the team has been pretty mediocre ever since. 

I'm not going to pretend that I know a lot about the Sixers.  I don't.  My love for the NBA was huge in the late 70s and early 80s.  That all went away in the age of Michael Jordan and NBA expansion.  I never liked Mike, for a variety of reasons.  The NBA watered down the product and I haven't cared a whole lot for the league in the last 25 years. 

Now the Sixers have a chance to land an impact player with the #2 pick.  That is part of the basic equation for turning a franchise around.  You must draft a stud, sign a key FA or make a trade, and add a key foreign player in order to become a top team.  The first move is getting the pick right. 

Several of you want Evan Turner, the G from Ohio State.  I watched him play a bit this year.  He can defend really well.  He looks like a solid shooter.  Good size, tough guy.  He hit some real clutch shots to win games or keep OSU in the mix.  That sounds like a pretty good prospect to me. 

I am in no way, shape, or form an NBA draft expert.  I'll defer to you guys.  Anyone here watch a bunch of OSU games this year?  What's the book on Turner?  No matter what, this is the most exciting thing to happen to the Sixers in a while.  The last entry that I know of in Great 76ers Moments was the halftime booing of Destiny's Child in the 2001 Finals. Time to replace that. 
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lots of Little Things

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The Eagles have a rookie camp going on this week.  There isn't any huge news, but here are some nuggets of possible interest:

* Macho Harris is playing CB.

* Nate Allen is playing FS and looks healthy.

* Marlin Jackson participated.  He moved well at times, but still looked tentative at other times.  (updated from earlier comment)

* Max Jean-Gillis is participating.  You may recall that he missed mini-camp while recovering from lap band surgery.  It'll be interesting to see what Max has to say.  

* LBs Moise Fokou and Joe Mays are there.  Some "young vets" are allowed in so they can get extra reps.


SPRINGS A TARGET?

The Pats cut CB Shawn Springs yesterday.  According to the Boston Herald, he failed a physical and that's why he was cut.  The Eagles need a CB and saw him plenty in his days with Washington.  Any interest?  Very doubtful.  Springs was brought in for a FA visit last year before he signed with New England.  The Eagles didn't make him an offer.  My understanding is that the Eagles were more curious than genuinely interested at that time.  After a mediocre year and failed physical it isn't likely that the team will be hot on his trail.  Some fans will wonder about passing on him, but really...is Springs a real answer or upgrade?  He used to be a terrific CB, but that a few years back.  He's now 35 years old.  You can bet that Pro Personnel Director Louis Riddick and his staff evaluated Springs this year.  If they truly feel he can help, the Eagles will go after him.  I just don't see that happening.  Springs might still be a big name, but he doesn't have the game to back it up anymore. 


OL HELP?

Tim Yotter of Vikings Update has a report up about OG Chester Pitts, who is currently rehabbing from a knee injury.  The Eagles are one of five teams to show interest in Pitts.  He played LT in college, but spent most of his time with the Texans at LG.  Solid veteran player, but nothing special.  Here's the key quote:

“I originally took three trips – Detroit, San Fran and Seattle – and they’re all actually still in the mix, and then Philly and Minnesota actually called last week and said, ‘If you’re ready on the 15th, we’re going to work you out and we have a place for you,’” Pitts told Sirius. “For me, I’m 85 percent, I’m pushing at 90 but I don’t like to say I’m at 90 because I’m not quite there yet. But I’ll be 100 percent (in) probably six weeks. So I have about a two-week cushion to get it as healthy and get as strong as I can get it.”


Pitts indicated that Seattle is probably in the lead for his services.  Interesting that the Eagles are checking him out.  With uncertainty about Max and his surgery, the Eagles would probably like to have an insurance policy in place. 


MORE CHALK TALK

Les Bowen posted some more nuggets from the recent Chalk Talk with the Eagles coaches.  Some interesting stuff. 
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Addition

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The Eagles added a rookie FA on Monday. They signed DT Boo Robinson from Wake Forest. Here is the PE.com blurb:

Robinson, a rookie free agent, was signed to a three-year deal today. The 6-1, 295-pound Robinson had 145 tackles and 12.5 sacks in his college career. A three-year starter, Robinson earned All-ACC honorable mention accolades following his junior year in 2008 after amassing six sacks.

A native of Monroe, La., Robinson was a three-year All-American scholar at Richwood HS and was a member of the National Society of High School scholars.

I watched Boo in several games this year. He didn't particularly impress me. There are reports that a back issue hindered his performance. With that in mind, I popped in a 2008 game tape to re-check him.

Boo might be the most unique DT in the draft class. He generally plays NT. He gets down in a 4-point stance. At the snap he comes off the ball, but very much under control. He uses his hands to engage the blocker and then Boo stops. He starts looking for the football and then takes off in pursuit. Essentially, it was like watching a LB play NT. Very odd. Boo has a medium athletic build. Heck, he almost looks skinny. He lacks the lower body size or power to effectively push the pocket. He does have a strong upper body and uses his hands well. He did 33 reps at his Pro Day, according to Gil Brandt's report. Boo has some quickness off the ball, but he really needs to time the snap right to be disruptive. He does play with good leverage. He has a good motor.

Boo is in no-man's land. He lacks the size to be a 2-gap player, but also lacks the athleticism to be an upfield, disruptive force. The Eagles likely were interested because of the way he uses his hands and shows potential at shedding blocks. I see him as a camp body with limited potential. I am curious to see how he fares in a more conventional style of DT play. It could be that he was miscast in the way that Wake Forest used him.


NEW COLUMN

Last week I wrote about Sean McDermott and the 3-4. I revisited that topic and expanded my thoughts for PE.com.

-Link-
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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Eagles Book Club

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Today we veer off track a little bit.  We're going to set aside the current Eagles team to talk about a book.  I'm sure most of you would love to know my thoughts on the latest Danielle Steele novel, but that will have to wait.  Instead we're talking about a brand new book called Bury Me In My Jersey:  A Memoir of My Father, Football, And Philly.  The author happens to be a friend of mine, Tom McAllister.  He is a regular poster on the Eagles Message Board.  You may know him there as swamistubbs.

Some of you may wonder why you should care about Tom's book.  Tom is a gifted writer.  I've read a couple of chapters and it is excellent.   His story involves 2 of the 3 keys to a good life - family and Eagles football (PBR is #3).  The book isn't about his take on the team, but rather what it is like to be an Eagles fan, something we can all relate to.  There are a few long distance Eagles fans who read this blog.  I'm in that category.  This book offers a glimpse into what it is like to be an Eagles fan growing up in Philly.  Color me green with envy.  Kelly green, preferably.

As for the family aspects...that is just as interesting believe it or not.  Let me tell you a quick story.  I grew up watching Mazda Sports Look with Roy Firestone on ESPN in the mid-80s. Roy is the best sports interviewer I've ever seen. I loved watching his show.  Back then we didn't have the glut of sports coverage that we do today.  Getting to hear athletes talk was special.  I absolutely loved watching Roy every chance I got. 

One day in June I turned on the show and was greatly disappointed to see that his guest for the day was his dad. Father's Day was coming up that weekend and Roy wanted to honor his father.  Boring. Who cares about Roy's dad? I wanted an interview with someone famous like Robin Yount, Reggie Theus, or Todd Christensen.  Give me any successful athlete.  I was not happy to see an episode wasted like that.

Then something funny happened.  Roy started the interview and I was blown away. Listening to father and son talk about their relationship and sports was mesmerizing. They told the greatest stories. I was only a high school kid, but learned a great lesson. People are what makes sports special. That is true of the players who play the game. The people who coach the players. The people who cover the games. The fans who watch the games.  If a good writer can combine family and football, I'm all ears. 

I conducted a Q & A with Tom so that you can find out some more about him and his book.  Here goes: 

Q:  Let's start with some basics so people can get a feel for you.  How long have you been an Eagles fan?  Who is your favorite player?

The first season I really watched was 1991, the year Bryce Paup broke Randall's leg.  I'd kind of been on the periphery during previous seasons, half-watching games with my brother and my dad, but I didn't begin to understand what was happening until '91.  That year wasn't bad, but the Randall injury made it feel like a bit of a lost cause from day one.  The '92 season, though, is still one of my favorite seasons, since that was the first time I followed a team from preseason all the way through a playoff win.  I must have watched replays of that Eagles-Saints playoff games a hundred times growing up.

Favorite players:  I've always been a defense guy when it comes to favorite players.  Seth Joyner is one of my favorites all-time.  Loved William Thomas too.  Since sometime in '04, Sheldon Brown has been my favorite Eagle; I really admired the way he carried himself on gameday, his reliability, his candidness with the media, the whole package.  Now I'd say my top two are Trent Cole and Jason Avant.  The perfect attitudes for football players.

Q:  Your book is partially about what it meant to grow up in a family of Eagles fans.  Watching games was about football, but was also a family bonding experience, whether that was good, bad, or a mixture of both.  That makes me so jealous.  I grew up in a family of non-sports fans or passive sports fans.  Watching games was and remains an afterthought. Tell us about some of the "rites" of watching Eagles games with your family.

The routine has definitely evolved over the years.  Growing up, we didn't do anything special, necessarily, but we all had our assigned seats (Dad in the recliner, me in the couch nearest him, my brother next to me, then mom next to him) and wore our Eagles gear.   But there wasn't a big production like some people do, with the home theater, the big gameday meals, and everything else.  All my dad cared about was watching the game, which meant there wasn't a lot of talking, and when we did talk, it was to analyze a play.  My dad was a very analytical guy, not prone to the kind of emotional outbursts that I am. 

Now, I watch most of the games with my in-laws, which usually means seven or eight people, great food (we're all into cooking, so there's some competitiveness with the gameday menu), and more superstitions than I can list.  Last year, my father-in-law printed up the House Rules for Eagles games, and they're on display wherever we're watching.  My favorite rule: if something good happens for the Eagles when you're out of the room, you have to stay wherever you are until something goes wrong.  Once, this led to someone sitting in the bathroom for about forty minutes, until Matt Bryant hit that 62 yard field goal. 

Q:  You have referred to yourself as "obsessed with the Eagles".  Does your family think there is something strange about how much of a fan you are?  What about your wife?  Does she embrace your love of the Eagles or is that ever a point of contention between you two?

My wife and I have been dating since freshman year of college.  Back then, we had a mutual friend whose girlfriend hated sports, to the point that the girlfriend would actively root against Philly teams because she hated him watching the games.  I made it very clear to my girlfriend/wife then that I thought that was a pretty awful way to live.  She didn't have to love football the way I did, but she had to at least understand and not try to undermine it.

Thankfully, she's a sports fan too-- baseball and football especially.  She doesn't get nearly as intense as I do, but she watches every game as closely as everyone else in the room.  She has two sports-crazy brothers, so she's had a lot of experience with the emotions of game day.  In the past, we did have a few contentious moments, when I was admittedly going overboard, spending 8-10 hours a day on the Internet looking for Eagles info, breaking my toe kicking a table after the loss to Oakland in '02, leaving drunken voicemails for Drew Rosenhaus, that kind of stuff. 

Q:  I know that I've changed quite a bit over the years.  I used to live and die with each game in a way that would dictate how I felt for the coming week.  That's not healthy, but it is how strongly I felt about the Eagles.  With time I've learned to "just relax" a bit more.  I now see the big picture and I don't get too high or too low.  Has anything like that happened with you or do you still live and die each Sunday?  Have you changed at all as a fan?

Absolutely.  I started to hint at this one in the last answer; through high school, college, and even grad school, I had a lot of moments that, in hindsight, are pretty embarrassing: self-inflicted injuries, holes in drywall, fights during games, hurling beer at an opposing fan.  Dumb stuff.  I think it would have become a big problem between me and my wife, actually, if I hadn't grown out of that a bit.  But I've become much better at managing my emotion, especially on game day.  A loss used to ruin me for an entire week; a losing streak made me unbearable.  I still hate the losing, and some things will drive me crazy during the games, but usually I'm much better at talking myself off the ledge now. 

Q:  You and I first "met" on the Eagles Message Board (EMB).  I've had a hard time getting friends and family to get beyond the notion that a message board is more than a chat room of devious freaks and/or venomous fans.  Those types are certainly present, but there are also many good fans eager for discussion and an exchange of ideas.  Have you had the same experience in terms of people wondering why you care so much about a message board?

I joined the EMB about 10 years ago on a whim, looking for rumors on free agent visits, and never had any intention of posting, let alone becoming a part of the community for a decade.  But now there are people on that board who know a lot of personal details about my life (and I know about theirs), and who have been there with me through some important years in my life-- roughly age 17 to now, when I'm 28.  I'm sure if you could track down my old posts, it would be a pretty good way to chart my maturation and personality changes over the years.   

Still, there's that old stigma about meeting people over the Internet, and I get it, to an extent; it seems unnatural, maybe.  But the EMB is a way for 100,000 like-minded people to congregate and to know that, no matter what, there are other people out there who care about the same things as you, and who understand why you feel the way you do.  There's a lot of value to something like that.  Everyone's looking for a place where they feel like they belong; for me, for a long time, the only place where I felt that was the EMB.

Q:  Let's talk about the city of Philadelphia.  Many people are shocked to learn that I'm not from Philly.  Heck, I've only visited a few times.  I have loved the little time that I have been up there.  Tell me about Philly, as you see it.

Philly is a vastly underrated city.  For much of my life, I underrated it too.  It's easy to overlook its virtues, because, for such a big city Philly can really feel like a small town.  At times, that small-town feeling can be charming, because you always feel like you know somebody, but it can also make you feel claustrophobic and the city can seem pretty small-minded when everyone gets tunnel vision.  But that's a familiarity breeding contempt kind of situation.  If you let yourself get lost in that mindset, you can miss that Philly has a great independent music scene, a thriving arts culture, a lot of excellent restaurants, and really good beer.  And don't forget that fact that it's a living, evolving museum, with some of the most important landmarks in the country's history.  

I'm gushing a bit.  Philly's been home to me for most of my life, so I'm obviously biased on this, but I do love the city, and sometimes get irrationally defensive when people point out its flaws.  The way I see it, the imperfections -- the dirty and sometimes ugly streets, the occasional overt rudeness, the weird public transportation system, the violence, etc. – make the place more authentic.  There's an honesty and a shocking earnestness about this city.  Philadelphia is a place that wants to be loved and respected, and when it gets spurned (through failed sports teams, the mocking of the media, the dismissive waves of New Yorkers, etc.) it reacts bitterly, with a gargantuan chip on its shoulder.  I can see why people would focus on the ugliness that sometimes accompanies this attitude, but I think that's what gives us our charm. 

Q:  Was there any particular moment or event that led you to write the book?  What was your inspiration?

Two things:

1. I went to grad school for creative writing in Iowa City, IA.  One of my first nights there, I met a classmate who happened to be from central NJ and was a huge Philly sports fan.  This was back in August 2004, so we spent all night drinking cheap pitchers of beer (Tommy, I know you'll like this:  $1 pitchers, any beer, just about every night in Iowa City) talking about how amazing the season was going to be, how great TO was, etc.  The next time I saw him, he gave me the book Fever Pitch, which is Nick Hornby's memoir about being an obsessed Arsenal soccer fan.  He said something along the lines of “you should read this, and you should write your own version of this about Philly and the Eagles.”  I didn't take his advice then, but he'd planted the seeds.

2. Three years later, I saw Tra Thomas buying oranges in the supermarket, and semi-stalked him through the store.  Afterward, I was thinking about how weird it was that—while I was with my wife-- I followed this football player and looked into his cart to see what he was eating, then watched him to see what his car looked like.  It seemed pathological and sad and disappointing.  My life had come to being a part-time instructor at a couple colleges, not writing anything, and stalking football players in the produce aisle-- what a letdown.  So I decided to write an essay about it.  The essay was kind of a mess, but the friend who gave me Fever Pitch read it and insisted that this was exactly what I had to be doing all along.  He isolated the parts about the EMB and Philly and my dad and showed me how I'd just laid the foundation for a memoir really exploring why I care so much about the Eagles and what being a fan means to me.


Q:  The process of writing the book must have been one heck of a trip down memory lane.  What were some of the good memories?  How about the bad?

One thing I haven't really mentioned yet is that this book, in many ways, is an elegy for my dad, who died of cancer when I was 21, and who has had an enormous influence on me.  One of our great bonds was watching and talking about football, and so this book evolved from a reflection on my obsessions, to trying to unravel the roots, meanings, and effects of those obsessions.  All of which is a long way of saying that early in the process, I realized that this book required that I really analyze my relationship with my dad, so the most interesting part of this process was digging through family stories, photos, and documents to learn more about my dad, who he was before I was born, and how other people viewed him. 

The remembering really was an act of re-learning my own history, and better understanding our relationship, so that was all very revealing and interesting and rewarding.  It's impossible to undertake a project like this and not learn about yourself.

More directly, one of the best memories: going to my first game with my brother and my Dad and seeing the Eagles dismantle the John Elway Broncos, 30-0. In piecing together the details for the book, I learned that my Dad had worked a lot of overtime to be able to afford those tickets, because I'd been begging him for months to take me to a game.

Worst: the scenes where I'm in the hospital with my dad, naively thinking he's going to get better, but everyone else around us knows he's dying.  Had I realized the gravity of the situation, I'm sure our last conversation would not have been about Jerome McDougle.

Q:  What was your families reaction to the idea of the book?  Have they read the finished product?  Any reaction from them?

My wife is very reserved, and so the whole concept of being a character in a book terrified her a little bit.  But she read it (she proofreads the final drafts of everything I write) and saw that she had nothing to worry about; no one looks better in the book than she does, and I'm the one who stars in the lowest points.  Overall, though, she was extremely supportive.  I'd gotten an MFA in creative writing, but this was the first time I wrote anything I really cared about, so she was glad to see me finally doing something, instead of just talking about how someday I'm going to be a writer. 

The rest of my family hasn't read it yet, so I'm waiting now and hoping they think I did everyone justice in there.  The whole family, though, has been amazingly supportive of the project from the day I started until now when we're in the promotional process. 

Q:  Do you consider yourself somewhat of a typical fan and thus think the book is something that the families, girlfriends, and wives of fanatical Eagles fans should read to help them understand who they are dealing with?  We Eagles fans are a strange group at times.  Some would argue 24/7/365.

If this book does nothing else, I hope it gives people an honest look at what it means to be a devoted fan.  Sometimes it's entertaining, sometimes terribly sad, sometimes joyous, and often a mixture of all three.  Writing it made me really grapple with my reasons for caring so much about the Eagles, and I hope it translates onto the page; fans should enjoy it because sometimes they might see themselves, and friends/family of fans should enjoy it because they'll get an unfiltered insight into the mind and life of someone who cares way more than he probably should about football.
______________________

You can pre-order the book if you like.

-Link-

It is due for release on Tuesday.  Might make a good Father's Day gift. 

I have 2 requests.  First, buy a copy of Tom's book so we can show support for our fellow Eagles fan.  Second, please don't start calling me Oprah.  Unless I get her paycheck. 

Feel free to share your own stories in the comments section.  I didn't grow up in an Eagles family so all I can offer are some good sports bar tales. 
_

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Some Saturday Scheme Talk

6 comments
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Let's talk about the 3-4 defense today.  Sean McDermott said in the Eagles Chalk Talk the other day that he may use it from time to time in 2010.  I don't recall us running a true 3-4 look at all last year.  I could be off on that, but nothing comes to mind.

People have a habit of mistaking a 3-man defensive line for a 3-4.  We use a 3-man line on a regular basis.  It is part of our Nickel and Dime packages.  The most common version is a 3-3-5 look we use.  That is 3 linemen, 3 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs. 

Why mix in some 3-4?  Basically, to give opposing QBs something else to have to deal with.  Throw an odd look at the QB in a key game and see if you can catch him off guard.  The Saints played a lot of 3-4 in the Super Bowl.  It didn't stop the Colts or Peyton Manning.  He still went 31-45-333.  The weird look did affect him.  He only threw one TD and the Colts only scored 17 points.  Clearly the Saints offense had a lot to do with that game because of their ability to sustain drives and keep Manning on the sideline.  Still, that defense wasn't what Peyton had planned for.  He focused on the Saints 4-3 base D.  Peyton is good enough as a QB to keep the chains moving when caught off guard, but 432 yards of offense only led to 17 points.  The 3-4 scheme had something to do with that.

Before you focus on the fact it was the 3-4 remember that the game before Peyton had shredded the Jets #1 defense and their 3-4 scheme.  He was 26-39-377 with 3 TDs and 30 points.  Peyton studied their game tape thoroughly and wasn't caught as off-guard.

The point isn't to run a 3-4 necessarily, but rather to mix up what you do.  We run a base 4-3 defense.  We do a lot of exotic stuff in Nickel and Dime packages.  The one way left for us to get creative is to adjust the base with some 3-4 looks.

How will we line up?  We can only guess at this point.  Here's a possible line-up:

RE  Brodrick Bunkley
NT  Antonio Dixon
LE  Trevor Laws
ROLB  Trent Cole
RILB  Moise Fokou
LILB  Stewart Bradley
LOLB  Juqua Parker (or Brandon Graham)

Dixon has the size and strength to be a good NT.  Bunk is athletic enough to push the pocket.  Laws played 3-4 DE as a Senior in college.  We could use Patt or Bunk at NT if wanted.  Abiamiri, if healthy, would be a good DE. 

Cole, Parker, and Graham would be the primary pass rushers.  They are athletic enough to drop back and cover as well.  You can't have the LBs rush upfield on every play.  You have to keep the QB guessing.

Bradley is clearly fine for ILB.  I put Fokou in the other spot.  I'm not sure Ernie Sims would be a good fit for ILB.  We could also put Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, or Joe Mays in that spot. 

OFFENSE

I need to write out a long post on the new offense.  There is a lot to consider.  We know the Eagles offense of Donovan McNabb as the QB.  We've seen Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg mix things up with different QBs on the field.  The question that we face this time around is what they will do with Kevin Kolb running the show.  He's not McNabb, but he is the chosen starter.  Other QBs were on the field due to injuries.  That forced the offense to change.  With Kolb as the starting QB by design we don't know what kind of an attack we'll see.

Anyone hoping for a significant change is going to be disappointed.  Andy and Marty are passing coaches.  We have a great set of pass catchers.  We will throw the ball.  That said, I do hold some hope that we will be more balanced.  I'll get into that more in the long post.

One thing to keep in mind in regard to the upcoming season...it will be a learning experience for the players, coaches, fans, and media.  The playbook will basically be the same, but the plays that we focus on will change somewhat.  And Kolb's execution of a given play will be different from McNabb.  Think of different musicians playing a set of notes.  Each guy will put his spin on things.  The sheet music doesn't change, but the music will sure sound different. 


ANSWERS

RE:  Vick trade?

Not likely.  I"m hearing real good things about Mike.  He looks completely different than he did last season.  Spending a year as part of a football team is apparently a better way to prepare than being at a half-way house.  We do need a quality backup QB.  It sounds like Vick has that role for 2010.  It is possible to deal him and then sign a vet QB to replace him.  I'm not so sure that's likely.  I don't think any team will give up much compensation for Vick.  That could change if he looks great in the preseason, but don't count on it.  Big Red loves his QBs.  He's only going to deal Vick if someone makes us a strong offer.  I don't anticipate that happening.


RE:  3-4 NT...have to be big?

We can be creative with our 4-3 looks.  Dallas used Jay Ratliff at NT and he's nothing like most of the big guys.  We could try any number of guys.  The closest thing we have to Ratliff in terms of size, build, and skill set is probably Victor.  And he has the mentality to be solid at NT for a limited amount of snaps per game.

I'm hearing that Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will play mostly DT this year in the Nickel and Dime.  He also could maybe get NT snaps in certain looks.  Teo certainly has the toughness and motor to hand the job.  I know some of you will focus on the lack of size.  When you mix in a special defensive package you don't need players with  standard size and a normal skill set.  After all, your goal is usually to do something different.  Remember, we're talking about mixing in some 3-4.  Could be 2 or 3 snaps or maybe 15-20.  This isn't the base defense that will be on the field for 30-40 snaps.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Misc Stuff

11 comments
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The Eagles held a Chalk Talk for local media on Tuesday evening.  Les Bowen wrote a post about for his blog.  It is definitely worth checking out.  Les came away impressed with Marty's knowledge of a highly complex offense.  He liked Bobby April.  He felt that Sean McDermott was the most useful of the 3 coaches.  He talked about various looks the team uses (4-3, Nickel/Dime stuff, some exotic looks and even some 3-4).  Sean also talked about several of the players. 

I spoke with someone else who attended and he agreed with the first assessment.  He also made mention that McDermott said Asante Samuel will tackle better this year.  I guess that is a point of emphasis with him this summer. 


FROM THE MOTHERSHIP

Dave wrote a good column on WR Chad Hall and his situation.  Chad is working his tail off for us part of the week and then flying back West to finish his obligation to the Air Force.  That's a heck of a commute.  I think you can see the dedication Hall has when you read the piece.   I really hope he plays well this summer.  I want this guy on the team, either active roster or Practice Squad. 

PE.com also has a video interview with King Dunlap.  He's added about 25 pounds this year, by design.  Juan Castillo and King planned for the bulking up.  King was thrown over to RT in the last mini-camp, but he indicated that was just done for that session.  He referred to it as a "numbers thing".  We'll see.  Could be that the return of Max at RG will push Fenuki Tupou back out to RT and that will send King to the left side. 

WESTY UPDATE

Brian Westbrook talked to the Rams.  He recently visited the Redskins.  Now he's on his way to Denver.  I'm guessing teams are doing research more than showing specific interest.  I still have torn feelings with Westy.  If he's truly healthy I want him to play.  I'm just not sure that's the case.  And I hate the thought of seeing him on the field as a pedestrian player.  Best of luck to him. 
___

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

DeSean Speaks

10 comments
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There is quite a bit of talking going on by Eagles and former Eagles.  I didn't really get into the DeSean/Donovan spat because it was such a non-story.  DeSean said some things to pump up his current QB and the press ran with that as insults to McNabb.  Mole hill becomes mountain. 

Now DeSean is claiming that Marty Mornhinweg said some things to him questioning his toughness after DeSean missed a game with a concussion.  I have to believe this is a case of miscommunication.  With the way the NFL was so concussion-focused last year I find it hard to imagine that Marty would try to get DeSean to play by goading him.  Maybe I'm giving Marty too much credit.  Who knows.  Coaches can be a little insane when it comes to injured players.  Bottom line...this won't happen again.  You can bet someone from the league office will make a phone call or send a strong email to the Eagles to remind them how to handle concussions.   Coaches have been known to push players too hard at times.  There are times when they have to be reminded that players are human beings. 



FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY

One of the readers yesterday posted an alternate draft to what we actually did.  He based this on us staying at pick 24 and keeping our original selections.  arby put some work into this so I figured I'd offer a good response. 

Here the actual draft class:

1 - DE Brandon Graham
2 - FS Nate Allen
3 - DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
4 - CB Trevard Lindley
4 - LB Keenan Clayton
4 - QB Mike Kafka
4 - TE Clay Harbor
5 - DE/LB Ricky Sapp
5 - WR Riley Cooper
6 - RB Charles Scott
7 - DT Jeff Owens
7 - SS Kurt Coleman

Here is arby's alternate draft:

1 - CB Kyle Wilson
2 - FS Nate Allen
2 - LB Sean Lee
3 - DE Corey Wootton
3 - LB Navarro Bowman
4 - DT Geno Atkins
4 - DB A, Owusu-Ansah
6 - RB Charles Scott
7 - QB Zac Robinson
7 - SS Kurt Coleman

Here are arby's comments so that you can understand his thinking:

In my post-mock, the emphasis is on the secondary not the pass rush. I've chosen 10 players as opposed to 13. Except for the DE & QB, the mock has mostly higher ranked players at arguably greater need positions but we don't get our great pass rusher or our 5th WR or 4th TE but then I don't care about those 2 positions with what we already had. Yes, we need to rush the passer better but Atkins was giving Iupati fits during Senior week and Wooten if he returns to form was one of the top DE's of the class. DE & QB are 2 of the highest priority positions for all teams and we got quality players at those positions - hard to fault the team for that. I started to post this last week but decided not to, thinking it would be read as a complaint; now that the conversation has turned back to the draft, I thought I'd throw this out there. I understand why we did what we did - we wanted a game-changer type of player and I hope Graham is that. Then we went for quantity with the hope we get some winners and Sapp, Cooper, Scott and Coleman are all great value picks. I'm happy with our first 2 picks and happy with our last 3 rounds. But the 3rd and 4th produced some head scratchers IMHO. It seems the Eagles like to use the 3rd round for a little gambling which hasn't been very successful (except for Disco Stew). Obviously the Graham pick is key to this draft - giving up #70 & #87 and "forcing" us to trade out of #55 to "make up" for the lost picks.

I'm sure there are some of you that would prefer the 2nd group.  That is a good set of players.   Wilson would have pushed for the RCB job immediately.  Sean Lee would give us a great insurance policy at MLB and would also challenge for the WLB spot.  Wootton would give us our biggest LDE since Ray Rhodes draft bust of 1997.  Lots of talent and potential in the group. 

There is one slight flaw.  This set of players would not have done what we set out to do.   We wanted to beef up the pass rush.  That was project #1.  And maybe #2.  We wanted to build a deep group of talented, versatile pass rushers.  I've said this a few times and can't stress it enough.  There were only a handful of 4-3 pass rushers available in the whole draft.  There were a ton of good DTs.  Great group.  There were plenty of 3-4 DEs, big guys that have some athletic ability.  3-4 teams had a lot to choose from.  There were quite a few good 3-4 OLBs.  The one scarce DL group was 4-3 pass rushers.  You had to target a few players and go after them aggressively...if that was your main focus.  And it was for Howie and the Eagles. 

arby made good choices in his post-draft mock draft (first time I ever typed that phrase).  He took good players and got good value with his picks.  The problem is that he didn't really address the area that we focused on.  Wootton has struggled all year with his recovery from a nasty ACL tear.  He didn't play in the Senior Bowl or workout at the Combine.  There is no telling if he'll ever get back to 100%.  He is a run stuffer type for now, but you can't count on him as a pass rusher. 

As for Geno Atkins...he did play lights out at the Senior Bowl.  You have to understand that he was firing off the ball and going against Iupati at RG.  Mike played LG at Idaho and struggled all week when they moved him to the right side.  Atkins looked better than he actually is.  The matchup and game setting favored him heavily.  Besides, Trevor Laws was a better version of Atkins a couple years back.  We aren't a great fit for DTs that are 6'1, 290 anymore.  Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will play a lot of DT for us this year, ala Darren Howard.  We like our pass rushing DTs to be 270, not 290.  If we want a guy with more size we can just use Laws in that role. 

I wish we had been able to land a stud CB.  I hate the fact we didn't.  I did think going after the pass rushers was smart.  In my final mock draft for PE.com I had us take Jerry Hughes at pick 24.  I wanted a pass rusher more than anything.  Those guys have a dramatic impact on games.  Good CBs are important, but unless you have an elite player he isn't likely to be a game-changing force. 

As for the notion that the 3rd and 4th rounds had some head scratchers...I've already talked about Teo.  He will be a backup DE and will have a chance to play at lot at Nickel DT.  We use that role quite a bit in our scheme.  Don't think of him as just a backup DE.  Teo played Nickel DT on a regular basis at Washington so it isn't as if we're asking him to do something he can't. 

The 4th round featured 2 solid prospects (Lindley, Kafka) and 2 great athletes (Clayton, Harbor).  Kafka wasn't a reach at all.  I thought he could have gone in the 3rd.  Lindley was a reach based on what I thought, but not other NFL scouts.  I've heard good things about Trevard from the scouting community.  Most people feel that was a very solid pick. 

I had Harbor pegged as a round 5-7 guy.  Going in the late 4th is hardly a major stretch.  I was also hurt by the fact that I only saw him in one game and one all star game.  The Eagles studied him closely and thought he was easily worth a 4th round pick.  Why is Harbor here for us?  The offense is going to change.  We'll no longer be the mad bomber attack.  RAC yards are going to be a critical part of the offense.  That's an area where Harbor is very gifted.  He's fast, athletic, and elusive.  The other TE we really liked was Tony Moeaki, who also has great RAC ability.  Both guys can block and are good athletes.  Both should be good STers.  We passed on Moeaki, but jumped on Harbor in the late 4th. 

Keenan Clayton was the "oddest" of the 4th round picks.  As I said in his write-up "projects to Nickel LB in the NFL".  How do you value that role?  The Eagles feared losing him and made sure to take him somewhat early in the 4th.  This wasn't a player that they casually had interest in.  I liked Keenan a lot.  I just wasn't sure how to rate a guy that might not be starting material.  He could be an outstanding role player.  He's athletic and productive.  I love those qualities. 

arby talks about missing on some 3rd and 4th round picks. That is worth its own post or article.  The one thing I'll say that I like about these particular guys is that they are being brought here to do what they do.  Clayton is here to play in the Nickel defense.  He excelled in coverage at OU.  Harbor is here to be an athletic TE and backup.  We're not asking him to be a huge part of the offense.  He could grow into a role like that, but for now he should be in a good comfort zone.  That will allow him to adjust to the NFL easier and find his niche.  Kafka has time to develop and is in an offense that fits him.  Lindley has potential, but needs coaching.  We have Dick Jauron ready to teach him all spring and summer. 

I've been down on some previous picks.  Tony Hunt was a workhorse runner brought here to be a role player.  Dumb.  Max Jean-Gilles needed to go to a run offense.  Here he's asked to pass block 40+ times a game.  Dumb. 

The value might seem off from an outside perspective, but the 2010 prospects have a good combination of skill and athletic ability and just as important...they fit what we need them to do. 
___

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Column is Up

11 comments
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I wrote about the LBs for PE.com.

-Link-


ANSWERS

RE:  Marlin Jackson at RCB

He absolutely could be the answer.  He's got good size and ability.  He's been a quality starting CB in the past.  I don't think we can count on him because of his knee issues.  Will he be 100% for 2010?  Can he stay healthy for the whole year?  He started all 16 games in 2007.  Since then he's only played in 11.  Playing CB isn't easy.  That position requires speed, quickness, skill, athleticism, and the right mentality.  If Jackson has lost anything in those areas he might be ineffective.  The ACLs could really affect his speed, quickness, and agility.  It could also affect the confidence he has in his legs and coverage ability.  We'll see how he does at Lehigh, but don't start counting chickens quite yet. 

One way to look at Marlin is as a lottery ticket.  If he can be a starting CB, we got a huge prize.  If he can be the starting FS, we got a good prize.  If he's able to be a role player, we got a prize.  If he busts...we're out our money.


RE:  Eagles draft board

The Eagles are too secretive to let that pictures of that thing get out.  I hear some things about past draft boards and share them when I can, but info on the current board is hard to come by.  The Cowboys board has gotten out a couple of times in the last few years.  At some point you have to start wondering if they are letting it out intentionally for a reason.


RE:  OJ Atogwe

He is not in a normal situation.  He was given the Franchise Tag last offseason.  That makes his situation unique.  It is complicated due to all of  the rules that govern RFAs, tenders, and Franchise players.  Most RFAs have a simple tender situation and they must sign.  Atogwe is an interesting situation.  I was surprised that no one talked to him earlier in the offseason.  If/when he becomes a true UFA it will be interesting to see if anyone goes after him or if there is an injury or some other issue that has scared teams away.  I think he's a pretty good player.


RE:  RCB

Myron suggested we could have gone after Dunta Robinson.  Maybe.  However, the Falcons were desperated for CB help.  They overpaid to get him.  We'd have had to outpay them to steal him away.  Dunta was terrific early in his career, but hasn't played at the same level in recent years.  I understand that the Falcons felt like they had to do something drastic and thusly went after him.  I don't think we were in the same situation.  Plus, as we've talked about many times in the past you want to avoid big dollar free agents as much as possible.  Those guys work out probably less than 50% of the time.  You need to make sure you're getting an elite player if you pay elite money.

As for staying at 24 and getting Kyle Wilson....we absolutely could have done that.  What pass rushers would we have been able to bring in?  There were only a handful of 4-3 pass rushers in the entire draft that were of any quality.  If you pass on Graham or someone in the 1st round you are going for a project later on.  I come from the school of drafting that says always take the pass rusher over the cornerback.  The DE can have significant impact on any given play.  He's there vs the run and pass.  The CB won't have that same impact.

As for Owusu-Ansah...he is a major project.  Myron says "the only thing really keeping him out of the first 2 rounds was the fact that he played in a small school against poor competition".  That's HUGE.  The only thing keeping Megan Fox from falling in love with me is the fact we've never hung out and listened to Jan Hammer together while drinking PBR.  Okay, maybe that's a poor analogy, but you get the point.  Sure AOA tested well and has a lot of potential, but he's never once in his life faced a legitimate NFL player.  Had he been able to play in the Shrine Game or Senior Bowl we'd have gotten to study him.  Watching him dominate at the D2 level is great, but doesn't make him a legit RCB target.  I thought AOA looked more like a FS from what I saw of him.


RE:  Howie's grade

I think you can give him a grade based on the moves he made.  Clearly we don't know how they will work.  We're judging his ability to handle the offseason and acquire players.  Howie was faced with some tough situations and circumstances, but came through it well and really impressed me.  We'll sit back 10 years from now and see how things worked out long term.  Do any of the draft picks become regular Pro Bowlers?  Does Ernie Sims thrive in our scheme?  Is Alex Hall the next Carlos Emmons or is he just a short term backup?  Who did we pass on in the draft?  And so on.

I like the moves Howie made.  We'll find out if they worked and how well they worked over time. 
___

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roseman's Rookie Year

19 comments
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The offseason is at that point where most of the moves have been made so we have a pretty good feel for the roster heading into Training Camp.  As I look at the team and each position group, I feel pretty good.  There are some questions at RCB and on the offensive line, but there are possible solutions in place at both spots.  If one guy emerges at CB we're okay.  If Stacy plays well at RG and either Cole or McGlynn looks good at Center, we should have a solid, if not good, O-line. 

The man who guided us through the offseason is General Manager Howie Roseman.  He has spent the last few years preparing for his turn at running things.  You know the old saying, "be careful what you ask for because you just might get it?"  Howie wanted to be GM.  He got it.  And he had a really complex offseason to deal with. 

First, the rules of free agency changed because of the CBA situation.  That limited our ability to add players.  It did keep some players on our roster, which allowed us to keep them as depth or use them in trades.   Still, this was a tough offseason for finding talent.  There just weren't good options on the open market.  The only free agent the team missed on that they really wanted was Julius Peppers.  I don't fault any one person in the Eagles front office.  Chicago basically went all out for Peppers and did everything humanly possible.  I'm not sure anything beyond a crazy offer was going to pry Julius away from the Bears.  We did land free agents Mike Bell, Hank Baskett, and Marlin Jackson.  Those guys are role players, but that is basically what was available this year because of the CBA restrictions.  
 
Howie was given the task of adding youth, speed, and talent to the defense, but doing so with one hand tied behind his back because of the limited market.  He didn't let that ruin our plans.  He got creative.  I thought Howie did a terrific job.  He made several trades and brought in multiple players to help us.  Some of the players will start.  Some will be role players.  Some will fail and get cut.  I liked the creative, aggressive approach that Howie and Andy Reid took.  We were as active as any team in the league.  Here is a list of teams that we either did make a deal with or I know for a fact we talked to seriously at some point:

-deals-

Seattle
Detroit
Washington
Cleveland
Dallas
Denver
Tampa Bay
San Diego
Green Bay

-serious talks-

Oakland
Buffalo

That is more than 1/3 of the NFL (11 of 31 for those scoring at home).  Not too bad when you consider the fact that Howie is new to his job and had to live with a hatchet job article by Michael Silver that labeled him as a "shakedown artist".  I'd say that Howie weathered that storm well and it proved to be written based on the grumblings of someone with several axes to grind.  Howie did well with trades.  He got us good players and at reasonable value.  Darryl Tapp could start for us if needed.  He only cost a 4th rounder and Chris Clemons (who wasn't a lock to make the team).  Ernie Sims cost just a 5th rounder.  He has the potential to be a real good WLB.  Alex Hall is a guy they like, but we're not quite sure where he'll end up (DE or SAM).

Howie also happened to take over at GM the year we decided to trade Donovan McNabb.  I think Andy Reid was the front man in those talks, but Howie was key as well.  You don't do a deal like that without a lot of phone calls to cover a lot of bases. 

I loved what Howie did in the draft.  He played the board to move up and back as it fit what we wanted to do in each round.  We were aggressive and smart.  We focused on certain areas and landed the players that we really wanted, with very few exceptions.  Time will tell whether we made good picks.  For now all we can judge is how we moved around and handled the situation.  If Howie had landed us a slightly better CB I'd be ecstatic.  I thought he did a very good job overall.  He might have landed us a couple of starters for the 2010 season in Brandon Graham and Nate Allen. 

What kind of grade do we give Howie for his first offseason?  I'm going with an A-. 

I'm sure some people will focus on Peppers and the inability to land a top shelf RCB.  I personally wasn't completely sold on Peppers and had my doubts about going after him.  I wonder if we'll regret not getting him or if this will be a blessing in disguise. 

As for RCB...we've discussed that spot quite a bit in the last couple of weeks.  I'm not happy with the uncertainty at the position, but I'm not sure what could have been done.  There weren't good choices in free agency.  There weren't any trade targets that I know of for a fact that I feel strongly that we should have gone after.   The CB draft class fell apart over time.  Character issues came up for some guys.  Slow 40 times hurt others.  Some guys showed poor COD ability.  We thought there would be 10-15 really good CBs, but that group shrank down to 5.  There was talent available after that, but the players each had some concern which knocked them down a notch.  The Eagles decided Trevard Lindley was a player they were comfortable and went after him in the early 4th. 

I'm not trying to give Howie a pass for RCB.  My point is that normally I would say why I disagreed with a move and would have given an example of what I'd have done.  Well, I wanted a pass rusher early in the draft.  We moved up and got one.  I wanted a quality FS prospect early.  We took one.  I also wanted a CB.  This is where things got weird. 

The top 5 CBs all went in the 1st round.  That surprised me.  I didn't see that kind of a run coming.  I guess I should have realized that meant there was a real drop-off from them to the next tier.  Onto the 2nd round.  Minnesota took CB Chris Cook with pick 34.  He was the only pure CB taken in the whole round.  Javier Arenas was nabbed by the Chiefs, but his ability as a RS was a major part of his value.  Think for a second about the fact that the 2nd round only had one pure CB taken.  That is wild.  After pick 37 our next selection was 55.  We dealt out of that down to #59.  We dealt out of that and into the 3rd round. 

There were 3 CBs taken to open the 3rd.  The Rams took Jerome Murphy, the Lions took Amari Spievey, and Tampa got Myron Lewis.  I've asked around to see if we "lost" any of these guys through our trading down.  I cannot confirm that any of them were on our board.   CB Kevin Thomas was taken by Indy and Brandon Ghee went to Cincy in the late 3rd.  The Titans surprised me by going for Alterraun Verner of UCLA just before our 4th round pick.  We got Lindley with the seventh pick of the 4th round. 

Here is what we missed on between pick 37 and Lindley:

Jerome Murphy - character issues
Amari Spievey - ran a 4.56 at his Pro Day
Myron Lewis -considered a CB/FS tweener
Kevin Thomas - serious injury concerns
Brandon Ghee - character issues and lack of production (only 1 INT in 3 years as starter)
Alterraun Verner - surprising pick...I thought athletic limitations would put him in the late rounds


I liked Murphy and Spievey, but had concerns with each guy.  Lewis had a down Senior year, but does have good potential.  Ghee is the guy I kept thinking we'd take.  I learned after the draft that there were some character issues that knocked him off a few draft boards.  It looks like we were one of those teams. 

On draft weekend I was frustrated by passing on Ghee.  Now that I know that there were outside issues I understand passing on him.  I would have preferred Walter McFadden of Auburn, but he slid all the way to the 5th round so it isn't like the Eagles passed on a slam-dunk prospect.  I just happened to like Walt better than Lindley.  I hope that Trevard, Dick Jauron, and Howie prove me wrong. 

The point of all this CB talk is that I don't think you can point to Howie making a clear mistake in how he handled the draft and the RCB position.  We all have ideas of what we might have done differently, but I didn't see anything that screamed "what the hell was he thinking???". 

Someone could raise the point about the fact we traded Sheldon Brown in the first place.  Trust me, that had to happen.  He wasn't happy here.  Sheldon has not been a happy camper since Asante landed here with his mega-deal in March 2008.  Sheldon didn't rock the boat publicly (to his credit), but he made it clear to team officials that he wanted out. 

Essentially I'm giving Howie an incomplete grade for RCB.   That spot is now at the top of the To Do list.  He can address it this summer, wait for someone to emerge, or make it the unquestioned priority next offseason.  If we have this same talk next May then Howie will have failed at RCB and I won't be a happy camper.  Let's just hope that doesn't mean that I get traded to Cleveland. 
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Stuff

7 comments
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Here is the link to Part 2 of the podcast I did with the guys from EaglesFanCast. 

-Link-


ROSTER TARGETS

There was a discussion in the last comments section about players the Eagles might like that are fringe players on other teams.  You can bet the Pro Personnel Dept has a list of players that they'll watch closely this summer, but really the guys we will focus on are players who stand out in preseason games.  Antonio Dixon had a great showing in Week 1 or 2 last summer and opened a lot of eyes.  He tailed off and that led to his getting cut.  Thank you, WAS.  Pago Togafau was the same way a couple of years back.  He didn't work out quite so well, but did spend a year here.

Watch the 3rd and 4th quarters of preseason games the first couple of weeks this year and you might find a guy that will be a future Eagle. 
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Longshots

11 comments
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Someone asked a question the other day about what longshots could surprise us and make the team.  That always makes for a fun topic. 

At WR we have Hank Baskett penciled in as the #4 guy.  Riley Cooper impressed the coaches at the recent mini-camp.  He's a virtual lock to make the team, but he could surprise people and steal that #4 WR spot and push Hank off the roster.  If that happens Chad Hall could be the beneficiary. 

The coaches hated to see young guys Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson go last year.  Danny they just couldn't keep on the roster because of Kevin Curtis' injury situation and not knowing how Jeremy Maclin would make the transition from Redshirt Sophomore to NFL rookie. I'm told that the coaches thought long and hard about cutting Curtis in favor of Amendola.  With that in mind, you know it will be hard for them to cut Chad Hall if he has a good Training Camp and preseason. 

I think Kurt Coleman has an excellent chance to make the roster.  I think real highly of him.  He's not the kind of guy who will wow you initially.  He's a bit undersized.  He's nothing special athletically.  He isn't a killshot type of hitter.  Kurt is just a good, solid player.  He has this weird affect, though.  The more you watch him, the more he will grow on you.  Over time, you'll begin to appreciate how good he really is.  Kurt could get caught in a numbers crunch if we go heavy with CBs and CB/S tweeners.  He might be relegated to the Practice Squad.  I think he'll have a good summer and impress the coaches enough that they find a way to keep him around. 

OT Austin Howard is a player that I'm real curious about.  He was the backup LT in this mini-camp.  I don't know the full story with that.  Did we move King Dunlap to the right side for a specific reason or does Juan Castillo think that highly of Howard?  Relatively speaking, of course.  The guy went undrafted so it isn't as if Castillo thinks he is a great player.  Juan may see a player with the potential to be a LT at the NFL level.  If so, those guys always have a fighting chance to make the team.  I'm interested to see how Howard does in the remaining OTAs.  He should get a little better each time out.  He's not used to NFL coaching.  He can make great strides the more he gets good reps and Castillo can work with him. 

The CB that fascinates me is Josh Morris of Weber State.  He was a confident, aggressive player in college.  If he can play with that kind of attitude he's got a chance to make it in the NFL.  CB is one of those positions where style actually has some value.  Those guys have to be able to erase a mistake instantly.  You need them to be somewhat delusional.  Remember when Roy McAvoy kept swinging for the green in Tin Cup?  He had the right mentality for CB.  You could also think like the Black Knight in Holy Grail.  "Come back you coward!"  He shouted that after having his arms and legs cut off by King Arthur.  Essentially...forget about what's happened and focus on the next play.  That's a good CB.  Morris looked good on tape, but that was against marginal competition.  We need to see if he's got the physical ability for the NFL and the mental makeup.  I think a lot of college stars get humbled in NFL camps and quickly fade away.  We pick on Reno Mahe for a lot of reasons, but you have to give a guy like that credit when you see how hard he worked to keep his NFL career going.  Look how easily Tony Hunt gave up. 

Dimitri Patterson deserves a mention in this topic.  He was on the team last year so picking him as a longshot to make the roster doesn't apply.  I wonder if he's a guy to watch in terms of getting on the field in 2010.  He made some nice plays at mini-camp.  He played late in the Bears game and did okay.  He hasn't had a ton of chances to prove himself on defense.  He might get a shot at playing time this summer.  I won't be shocked if he steps up.  He's proven to be a good STs player.  Dimitri has the right mentality.  He'll battle on every practice rep and every play in a game.  He's been around the league a few years.  This is make or break time for him as a DB.  He'll either show he deserves some playing time on defense or that he's meant to be just a STs demon, which isn't the worst thing in the world.  Ask Sean Morey. 


Here's the team roster.  Feel free to find your own and let us know who you're watching:

http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/team/roster.asp?sort_by=3
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Focus on the Secondary

23 comments
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Trying to figure out what's going on in the secondary is like trying to understand a puzzle that's wrapped inside an enigma that's wrapped inside a mystery.  I'm pretty sure I just butchered that line from JFK, but that's the whole point...the secondary situation will mess with your mind.

We don't lack bodies.  We've got a ton of pieces.  The problem is trying to figure out who goes where.  We have young guys that are unproven.  We have versatile guys.  We have guys coming off injuries.  You name it, we got it.  Still, I can't come up with a configuration that makes me comfortable.

Let's start with the Safety position.  We know Quintin Mikell will be the SS.  He's a lock.  I think rookie Kurt Coleman will be one of his backups.  I'm not sure if there is a clear cut backup to him.  The Eagles have talked about Safeties being interchangeable so likely the #3 Safety will backup both spots.  Of course, we still don't know who that is. 

What about FS?  Macho Harris is there now, but we've heard that he's likely to move back to CB.  Rookie Nate Allen makes sense, but we need to see him get on the field and practice with the team before we can pencil him in and feel good about it.  Free agent Marlin Jackson did some stuff at mini-camp, but isn't yet 100% in his comeback from an ACL tear (or two...or three).  What about Quintin Demps?  This time last year he was projected to be the starting FS.  Last weekend he practiced with the 3rd string at times.  Weird. 

The LCB will be Asante Samuel.  RCB is a major mystery.  The team is really talking up Ellis Hobbs.  I don't know what to make of this.  Are they genuinely optimistic that he can be the answer?  Hobbs was a solid starter for the Patriots for a couple of years.  Maybe they expect him to play much better in his 2nd season as an Eagle. 

The doubting Thomas part of me wonders if all the talk is legit.  Could the Eagles be hyping him for some other reason?  Maybe we're talking to other teams about veteran CBs, but we need them to think we're comfortable going into the 2010 season with Hobbs as the starter.  If teams think you're desperate they will drive up the price in a trade.  Unfortunately, I haven't heard any trade talk behind the scenes.  There aren't a whole lot of good rumors right now. 

Behind Hobbs we have a battle between Macho Harris, Trevard Lindley, and possibly Marlin Jackson.  We also have holdovers from last year in Dimitri Patterson and Geoff Pope.  This is going to be a battle royale.  I just wish it was because we had too many guys that deserved the job.  This situation is a little different.  Macho lacks ideal speed.  Lindley is just a rookie.  Marlin isn't healthy.  Pick your poison, I guess.  Patterson and Pope are both mysteries.

Training Camp is going to be real interesting.  We need one of these players to emerge.  Normally someone does.  Hobbs could be the guy because of his experience.  Macho could be the guy because of his ball skills and ability to play physical press coverage.  We'll see how Lindley handles NFL competition.  He has the best combination of size, speed, and skills.  And I don't think we can count Marlin Jackson out.  He's been a good starting CB when healthy.

I haven't talked about Joselio "MmmBop" Hanson yet.  I've heard from a couple of sources that he is fully healthy now and should be back to his old self.  He played well in 2008 and early in '09.  I don't think he is capable of starting outside, but if we can get him back to being a good slot corner we'll have a key piece in place for our defense.  NFL teams use 3-WR sets a lot of the time these days.


DT

ESPN Insider reported that the Eagles might have some interest in free agent DT John Henderson.  He was recently cut by the Jaguars.  This would make sense, but I can't confirm that we do have interest in Big John.  We didn't come away from the draft with a DT who could provide immediate impact.  Henderson has been a good starter for a long time, but he might be ideal as our #3 guy.  That would limit his snaps.  I'd love to see us have a guy with his size to push the pocket.  He goes about 6'6, 330.  Have we ever had a guy like that? 


Site Stuff

Thanks for all the feedback.  I'm working on a few things and trying to figure out what's best.  I'll keep you guys updated.

I know we're now in a quiet time of the year, but I will be posting as close to every day as possible.  There is always something to talk about.  We're Eagles fans.  Something is very wrong if we don't over-analyze every aspect of the team.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Roster Talk

14 comments
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There were quite a few comments and questions about Monday's post on the roster.  Let's address some of the points. 


Omar Gaither --- I left him off the roster.  I'm not sure what his future is.  He's coming off a Lisfranc injury.  He's not yet ready to practice.  He could be the backup MLB, but I don't think that is a lock.  I wonder if the Eagles might not reach an injury settlement with him and let Omar go elsewhere.  He's really not happy on the bench and clearly isn't part of the future plans. 

Joselio "MmmBop" Hanson --- I left him on the roster.  I think he's very much on the bubble, though.  One of the guys at PE.com, Chris McPherson I think, was saying good things about Hanson.  I know some people will dismiss that as fluff, but the PE.com guys don't go out of their way to single out players on the fringe of the roster.  I'm keeping an open mind on MmmBop.  I want him to get back to his 2008 form.  He has played well for us in the past.  And I was told that an injury affected him down the stretch.  We'll see what happens.

Ricky Sapp --- It sounds like most people had a 2nd round grade on him, but he still fell to the 5th round.  There must be serious concerns about his knee.  We're using him at SAM, somewhat of a new position.  He played a hybrid LB position a lot at Clemson, but still got to rush the passer most of the time.  I think the team would love to put him on IR and let him spend the year learning how to play LB.  I think Sapp is battling Alex Hall for a DE/LB hybrid spot.  I'm not sure we can keep both guys.  Sapp will get a chance to prove himself at Lehigh.  If he looks great then he will play for us this year.  Don't lose sight of the fact that any of these guys can play their way on or off the roster. 

DE spots --- I think Graham will be the starting LDE soon enough.  I'm fine with having Tapp as his backup, but the coaches may feel like Parker is better there because he's been at LDE for several years.  Tapp has started at RDE and had some success.  He's more athletically gifted than Parker and therefore has a better chance of beating LTs when he's on the field.  Depth and versatility...good things.

Quintin Demps --- No one is going to toss him aside.  He's got a chance to win a roster spot.  Heck, he could still be the starting FS.  This weekend he ran with the 3rd team.  Not good.  He's talked a good game this offseason, but now he needs to back that up with on-field action.  Demps is suddenly caught in a numbers crunch.  He has to prove to the coaches that he deserves to be here.  I loved him coming out of UTEP and would really like to see him turn things around.  It is all up to him. 

Dimitri Patterson --- The Eagles love his STs ability.  They like him as a CB.  He played some in the Bears game, with the game on the line.  I'm not sure what his ceiling is.  I don't know if he's good enough to ever be a starting CB.  I do think he is a good backup and STer.  Very good gunner on punts.  That has value. 

King Dunlap --- Someone raised the point that the Eagles could be working him on the right side so that he can be the top backup on both sides.  Excellent point.  That is very possible.  For 2 years he was purely a LT as far as I know.  I'll check into that and see if I can find anything out. 


Laws / Dixon --- Trevor needs to play well to keep his job.  One of the coaches (Reid maybe) talked recently about possibly playing Trevor in the Nickel.  He's a good fit for that.  When we go to a Nickel or Dime look we let our DTs attack up the field.  Trevor can use his quickness and motor to be disruptive.  Dixon is strong enough to push the pocket, but isn't a guy you want on the field in those situations with regularity.  I'm fine with mixing him in to keep things interesting.  Nothing is set at DT beyond the starters in the base unit. 

Martin Rucker --- He's fighting a major uphill battle.  We've got 3 good TEs aside from him, all drafted by us.  I'm sure Rucker would need to outplay Ingram and Harbor by a wide margin to beat them out of a job.  That is possible, but not likely.  Rucker is talented, but isn't such a compelling player that you do anything it takes to keep him. 

Cornelius Ingram --- One important thing to keep in mind when talking about him is that he didn't re-tear the ACL last year in a normal sense.  The previous surgery wasn't done well.  That's what caused the tear.  It isn't as if he's got a degenerative knee.  I think he's got a chance to be right as rain this year.  The Eagles are bringing him along slowly to make sure there are no setbacks. 

Marlin Jackson --- He's had multiple ACL tears in multiple years.  I have no idea what shape his knees are in.  He could make the team and be a starting CB or never play another snap of football.  The Eagles were pretty aggressive in how they went after him so I'm wondering if that doesn't mean they felt really good about his situation.  Marlin is a mystery.  Let's hope I like the conclusion to his story better than I did to It


NEW COLUMN

For PE.com I wrote about the mini-camp and some expectations for the season.  I doubt there is much new to those of you who read here daily, but take a gander if you like. 

-Link-
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Monday, May 3, 2010

First Stab at 53

30 comments
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We now have a weekend of action in the books.  Here is a guess at the 53-man roster:

WR DeSean Jackson ... Jason Avant 
WR Jeremy Maclin ...... Hank Baskett .......... Riley Cooper
TE Brent Celek ........... Cornelius Ingram ...... Clay Harbor 

FB Leonard Weaver
RB LeSean McCoy ....... Mike Bell ................. Charles Scott
QB Kevin Kolb ............ Mike Vick ................ Mike Kafka
LT Jason Peters 
LG Todd Herremans ...
Max Jean-Gilles
OC Nick Cole ............  Mike McGlynn
RG Stacy Andrews .....  Fenuki Tupou
RT Winston Justice ...... King Dunlap


RE Trent Cole ............
Darryl Tapp    
DT Brodrick Bunkley ... Trevor Laws
DT Mike Patterson ..... Antonio Dixon
LE Brandon Graham ...
Juqua Parker ........ Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
WB Ernie Sims ........... Akeem Jordan ....... Keenan Clayton
MB Stewart Bradley ... Jamar Chaney
SB Moise Fokou ........ Alex Hall
SS Quintin Mikell ....... Kurt Coleman
FS Nate Allen ...........  Marlin Jackson
CB Ellis Hobbs ........... Trevard Lindley 

CB Asante Samuel ..... Dimitri Patterson
NB Joselio Hanson ..... Macho Harris

P Sav Rocca
K David Akers
LS Jon Dorenbos 




PUP List:  Jamaal Jackson, Victor Abiamiri   
Injured Reserve:  Ricky Sapp


Practice Squad

OL Dallas Reynolds
OL Austin Howard
TE Martin Rucker
WR Kevin Jurovich
WR Chad Hall
FB Chris Zardas
CB David Pender
DT Jeff Owens 
 

THOUGHTS

The breakdown is 24-26-3.  That wasn't done intentionally.  That's just how it worked out.  You rotate guys on defense so you'll normally have more guys on that side of the ball. 

I'm not 100% comfortable with this group.  I hate cutting Quintin Demps because of his ability as a KOR.  I'm obviously guessing when I take Chaney over Joe Mays.  I guess I'm still scarred by how bad Mays was last summer.  I listed Marlin Jackson at FS, but he could just as easily be the starting RCB.  It is all about his health.  If Macho is healthy and plays well then he could push one of the CBs off the roster and open up a spot for Demps or some other Safety. 

I hated cutting Chad Hall.  I get the feeling some crappy team would snatch him up.  Danny Amendola, pt. 2.  No pure LT backup?  I'm projecting Todd to slide outside.  We have one of our backups take his spot at LG.  


I didn't know what to do with Alex Hall.  We specifically asked for him in the trade with Cleveland.  This isn't a casual player of interest.  That said, he is a project for us.  He played DE this weekend, but I think his future is at SAM.  The Eagles want him to make it, but he'll have to show us something to get a spot.  


Fire away and rip this things to shreds.  Tell me where I'm crazy.  


ANSWERS


RE:  DT Anthony Montgomery


He's huge (6'6, 330) and has some ability.  He's only 26-years old.  The Eagles ought to take a close look at him.  I haven't heard if they plan to do anything.


RE:  Kelly Green Jerseys


Excellent.  Glad to see we'll get to check out the team in them this year.  That should be cool.  I hated the black jerseys (although they look good on fans).  


MISC ITEM...

I want to move this blog over to Wordpress.  Does anyone have any strong objections as to why that shouldn't be done or is a bad idea?  I think WP is easier to use and has a cleaner look. 
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