Thursday, May 6, 2010

Focus on the Secondary

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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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23 comments:

T_S_O_P said...

On Macho's speed, the concern is deep speed - right? Did he look slow on tape at college? I don't remember that being said? Then he runs a 4.68 at the combine were all the DBs ran slow before timing a 4.46 at his pro day. That number compares to his predecessor as well as Lindley, Marlin and all the others around him, though I don't have Hobbs' number.

Joe said...

as someone who has the misfortune of living in Patriots territory, I have to disagree re: Ellis Hobbs. I think he was a marginal cb/decent return guy. If Ellis is a starting CB for the Eagles, it will be a step down from Sheldon unless he really improves.

AD said...

One thing I noticed about Macho last year, is once he made up his mind, he got to where he wanted to be. In otherwords he seemed to play fast. I didn't think he showed a lack of speed in any part of his game. Hesitation yes, can he run a deep ball with Desean? Probably not, but I have the feeling that his closing speed is more than adequate, and he has the back-peddle, and change of direction speed to play all the short and intermediate routes. No doubt he has ballskills....we shall see, should be intresting.

Baloophi said...

@ Tommy

As if you could butcher a line from JFK... back and to the left -- back and to the left. Yikes.

Also unrelated, but I just finished the first four episodes of The Unit. I've gotta say the dials go way down whenever we cut back to the wives' story. It seems weirdly 50's and not in a good way. Otherwise so far the show seems like a newer version of The A-Team... I like it.

Kerkrit said...

Any decent FA CB on the market?
Ken Lucas?

Eric said...

It's funny to me how we're not sure Nate Allen would start right away but every pundit was so sure Earl Thomas would.

Why? Earl Thomas isn't a once in a generation player. So why did they all assume (I'm looking at you Diddy!) that he would instantly start?

John said...

The quote you mention at the beginning is from Winston Churchill, but has been used by many people and films.

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."

In regards to the secondary, I think Nate Allen and Mikell will end up starting at safety, with Samuel and Marlin Jackson at the corners. I don't think the Eagles would have signed Jackson if they weren't confident in his ability to train this summer and play this fall.

There's no way Macho Harris can start at Corner. As you point out, he just doesn't have the speed. He'll end up in the nickel package or as a backup at safety. Lindley, Patterson, and Hanson will fill out the nickel and backup corner positions.

Eric said...

Do we actually believe Sheldon Brown had greater speed than Macho?

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: Macho

I had some questions about his deep speed before he ran at the Combine. You have to remember that VT has a fast track. 4.46 there might be over a 4.50 when adjusted by scouts.

I have no problem with the Eagles giving him a shot. I love his toughness and competitive spirit. I'd love to see what he could do at RCB. I'm sure we'll see him there in some OTAs and somewhat at TC.

Cliff said...

Macho will be the starter at RCB at some point this season.

Little known fact, Macho was recruited as a RB, too. In fact, before the emergence of Darren Evans, there was serious discussion in Hokie Nation of moving Macho to RB. Thank God Evans turned out to be a great runner.

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: Ellis Hobbs

The guy started on a team that went 16-0. I'm not saying he was ever a good player, but he started on a defense that was 4th in Pts and Yds Allowed. I know that team was stacked on offense and had some defensive playmakers, but you don't finish 4th overall if a CB isn't at least a solid player. Ellis had 51 solo tackles, 12 pass breakups, and an INT. Those are decent overall numbers.

I'm not trying to spin this story and make it sound like I'm confident in Hobbs. I'm not. I hope Macho or Marlin or Lindley is able to step up and earn the RCB job. Hobbs has been a starter in the NFL on good units and good teams. You can't ignore that fact. Whether he can be an effective starter in 2010 is a major question and one I hope we don't have to find out.

Tommy Lawlor said...

RE: Macho, pt 2.

He does have exceptional quickness. He had a 3-cone time of 6.68 and a SS time of 3.98. Those are rare numbers. I hope now that Macho is acclimated to the NFL we're able to see his instincts and quickness on a regular basis. We need him to be a playmaker, whether at CB or FS.

As for comparing him and Sheldon...I don't have Sheldon's 40 time memorized. I might have that in a notebook at home. I'll check it out.

Tommy Lawlor said...

Off-Topic

@ John...Thanks for the help with the quote. I'm sure Churchill would have been proud of the way Joe Pesci used his quote in JFK.


@ Baloophi ... "The Unit" really has some moments of greatness because things don't always turn out so well for everyone involved. The characters have to deal with the guilt of killing innocents in a few episodes. I liked that. Secret combat missions can't be expected to go smoothly every time out. Best to deal with things with some reality mixed in.

The wives/families do take away from the show at times. CBS did that to try and broaden the audience. There are some episodes where it works well, but too often it is forced and awkward.

Baloophi said...

@ Eric

The strike was an unfortunate but necessary evil. In addition to trying to phase writers out of "new media" (anything not broadcast via satellite... i.e. the future), the studios also attempted to roll-back pension and health care contributions. It wasn't a pleasant time by any stretch of the imagination but it was something that had to be done.

Ironically, Shawn Ryan was one of the more spirited and vocal leaders during the strike.

Myron said...

If you can write this year off as a rebuilding year intended to get Kolb acclimated to being a starting NFL quarterback, I think maybe you can get by with sub-par CB play, give up some touchdowns, and then look to the 2011 draft to obtain a top-flight DB. Right now, the 2011 draft looks rich with potential shutdown cornerback prospects: Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, and Ras-I Downling. Any one of these projects to be a great CB prospect.

So write this season off, let Kolb learn the game, straighten out your LB/DL situation with all of the players drafted this year, then complete the defensive puzzle with a top CB prospect in 2011.

Cliff said...

@ Myron

With all the holes we had on D last season, why does having a below-average RCB (maybe) takes us out of Playoff contention? Look at the other likely NFC playoff teams:

Packers: Al Harris and Charles Woodson

Cowboys: Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins

Giants: Aaron Ross and Corey Webster

Vikings: Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield

Cardinals: Wilery Fontenot and Rodgers-Cromartie

Saints: Malcolm Jenkins and Randall Gay

Do you see any intimidating duos in that group? Because I sure don't. Are some of them better than us? Yes. But the Raiders also have a better CB duo than most of those teams... are they more likely to make the Playoffs?

Cliff said...

And how do you just "write off" the season? What exactly should the coaches and players do to make sure they don't compete for a playoff spot, thus writing it off?

Another problem with your "strategy" is that nobody knows what our needs will be in the future. CB looks like a hole now, but what if Macho, Hobbs, Jackson, or the rookie plug that hole? You're entirely too quick to "write off" players whom we haven't seen play yet.

We also don't know if a bigger need will arise between now and the next draft or free agency period. Injuries are inevitable. We could lose our LT to a freak Training Camp injury. We could lose McCoy to an ACL or high-ankle injury. That would catapult those positions way above CB.

We also don't know if any of the teams you're so scared of shredding our corners I'll be any good this season. The Cowboys were historically lucky last season by not suffering a single serious injury. They were literally the healthiest team in the NFL all year long. They can't count on that good fortune again. A hit to their OL would essentially nullify all those "great" wide receivers they hVe now because we loaded up on pass rusher.

Adam S. said...

^^ what he said

Joe said...

re: re: hobbs.
Don't get me wrong. I actually like having him here, he's a great return guy and I think he'd be a good option at 3rd corner. Like you said, he's got experience with an elite team and is a proven pro. He's also a tough guy who has played hurt.

ZackISM said...

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/2002/draft/players/99689.html

Doesn't say anything about official combine results, but does say he runs a 4.48-40. Also states he ran under 4.4 in individual workouts.

Not sure Macho had Sheldon's athletic ability when Sheldon entered the league. Maybe at this point (Brown nearing 30, Macho 23), they are similar, but Brown has 8 years of experience, playing the position which could make up for lost speed. Just my take.

I was not a fan of what I saw out of Macho Harris last year. I though along with the all the LB's, he was just flat out bad.

T_S_O_P said...

@ ZackISM

Macho's numbers in the shuttle, cone, and at 10 and 20 yards were better than Sheldon's coming into the league in both his combine and pro day performance. The question is his deep speed, he is everybit as athletic as Brown was in '02.

ZackISM said...

@TSOP

I mean you may be right, but I'm not sure I saw it. At the very least he isn't nearly the football player Sheldon was in 2002. Brown may not have made a HUGE impact as a rookie, but he showed up more than Macho.

I know a number of fans like Harris, and that's fine - but count me as concerned. I think a player who logged as many snaps as Harris should luck himself into a INT, FF, FR or sack. Harris had no stats, barely got his hand on the ball.

Anyone who loves what Macho Harris did as a rookie, and thinks he's athletic, should have been begging the Eagles to draft un-productive Taylor Mays.

As for straight line speed, I think CB's might be one of the few positions where that is a key aspect of the job.

I know many mock the combine, as the underwear olympics, but Corners are a spot where you may need to run 30-40 yards in a straight line. Macho's 4.68 should concern everyone, even if his 10,20 and quickness drills are great - he's not playing RB.

T_S_O_P said...

Zack

I think the 4.68 is more of an anomaly than the 4.46 and 4.5 he ran at his pro day albeit on a fast track. Who else fro VTech ran that day? Did they better their time by 0.22 of a second? The 4.68 was one run. One. And he went through 10 and 20 on that run in around the same time as when he clocked his 4.46 at his pro day.

As for rating a rookie Brown to Harris, that is difficult as Brown was asked to do for the Eagles what he did for South Carolina behind 2 great players, whereas Harris was asked to move and play FS and start from day 1 in the place of a legend. That is far more of an adjustment. He was sure to look a step slow in such circumstances. He had to know the entire playbook.