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. 
_

8 comments:

mcud77 said...

"Aggressively" went after Mike Bell? By giving him a one year deal several weeks into free agency? Did we go after Hank Baskett aggressively as well? =)

To me, the only really aggressive things the Eagles have done this offseason are giving their 3rd WR a long term deal, trading up for Brandon Graham, and going out and getting Bobby April.

Everything else has been done with value in mind.

I really wonder how radically different this offseason would have been had we landed Julius Peppers. Our failure to get him put us on a completely different path this offseason.

Cliff said...

Which might be a good thing for the long-term prospects of this team. Peppers' contract is ridiculous. Did we want that tying our hands for the next several off-seasons, given his age?

Anyway, that's an old and worn argument, I think. On to the next one...

Your comment about Demps going from "zero to hero" reminds me of McDougle's rise from the ashes. With one summer, Jerome went from "cut the bum" to "we'll regret cutting him" among the media and fan base. All it takes is a couple big plays in the Preseason and the fan base falls in love.

We also have to anticipate injuries. I fear that Trent Cole is due for one. Has he ever been significantly injured and forced to miss a lot of time? I can't think of anything. Brandon Graham might be starting on the opposite side than what we've all thought.

frankfurtler said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. The paragraph about recent SB champs reminded me of our beloved Eagles SB loss to the Pats and how NE came out in that game in a 4-3 look contrary to their base 3-4. Just another example of a very good point you make.

Pitmanite said...

tommy-

i don't know if i've thanked you yet for all your hard work throughout the draft. i think i checked your site about 10 times a day for about 4 or 5 days. i thank my lucky stars that you somehow became an eagles fan.

now that i've buttered you up, i have to take a little issue with your defensive section of this post. i agree w/ what you said about it being a major plus that some of our offensive guys are versatile players. the key though is that those guys are really good/great at their main role. d-jack & maclin are stud WRs and if they never play special teams again, they can still both be pro bowlers at WR. it just happens to be a bonus that they can do other things.

as for the defense, it sounds good and fun to try and get us excited about the the fact that our LBs and DBs are versatile players; however, another way to say it is that they aren't really good/great at playing the position we initially tried them at but they are pretty decent at playing a few positions, which creates some value. basically a "jack of all trades, master of none." gaither & jordan are nice role players, but if they are our starters for a long stretch then we could be in trouble. i believe stew has only played MLB here and notice, they have no illusions of moving him bc he's a damn good mlb. He may be talented enough to play other positions, but we won't see it happen bc he's too good at mlb. right now with our DBs we have a bunch of guys who we don't know what they are bc they haven't shone brightly enough at any one position. macho is still young, but right now we don't know if he's good enough to be a starter at FS or CB. maybe he's a 3rd corner. demps is a FS w/ corner speed, but right now hasn't shown us much in coverage or tackling. for my money, i'll take a really good CB who can only play CB, a really good WLB who is simply a WLB, and a really good FS who is just a FS (fingers crossed it's nate allen).

For a second there when I hit the defensive section of this post, I thought i had accidentally been redirected to "On the Inside" on philadelphiaeagles.com. honestly, i'm just having fun here, and am not trying to be negative about our D. i've said before that i like that the eagles really went aggressive in the draft on building our defense. i hope that during the competition some of these young guys separate themselves from the pack and show us something.

Tommy Lawlor said...

@ mcud...

Maybe "aggressively" was too strong a word, but my point is that he wasn't some cast-off that we signed because he happened to be on the street. The Eagles genuinely wanted Mike Bell and were very happy to be able to get him.


@ pitmanite...

I thought my tone with the defense was indicative of the fact that versatility was good and bad. Maybe I should have been more exact. I do like the versatility of the guys in the front seven. That is a group of guys that you can be creative with and get maximum results.

The secondary is a different story. That's why I said we have a bunch of CBs who could play S and a bunch of Safeties who could play CB. That isn't supposed to be a vote of confidence, but more a back-handed compliment (aka complicated insult).

dmass said...

Hey tommy,

I am new to the comments section here but have been reading your work (all 3 sites) for about a year.

First, I am a die-hard birds fan. I live and die with their every move. Reading eaglesblitz helps me realize that i am not the only one crazy or obsessed, that there are other eagles fans just as crazy about the eagles as i am.


Just wanted to let you know that eagles fans appreciate all your hard work and insight to keep us informed. I look forward to commenting on your posts in the future

Prem Prakash said...

Not only does this strategy allow the coaches to design and implement more complex gameplans, it makes the Eagles successful as injuries mount during the season.

Baloophi said...

@ Cliff

RE: Demps - "zero to hero"

I don't think comparing anything he does (or doesn't do) this pre-season to McDougle is very fair... even as you (rightly) criticize the media and fan base's capriciousness. Demps is in a very different situation than McDougle. Demps had a promising rookie season and then was the favorite to start last year before a disappointing pre-season and an injury-riddled season. If he performs well during one summer it's vastly different than performing well for one summer after 5 years of injuries and gun-shot wounds. In fact, I would argue that if Demps plays well in the pre-season and earns a spot it won't be a "rise from the ashes" or a "zero to hero" move so much as an "out of the doghouse" or "overcoming the sophomore slump" or "getting it" scenario. More to the point since the context was "competition" and "not being able to predict cuts" I think Tommy was referring to how the coaching staff sees Demps, not the media or fan base.

I think you're trying to caution everyone and say that if Demps plays well this summer we shouldn't be fooled into thinking he's suddenly a solid player. If he plays well I would reserve judgment. While I wouldn't be "fooled" I would be encouraged - he showed promise his rookie season and it's more than possible that a 24 year old safety in his third pre-season can improve his overall play as opposed to a 30 year old injury-plagued defensive end.