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Month: May 2016

Throwback Thursday: Andre “Dirty” Waters

Throwback Thursday: Andre “Dirty” Waters

To the casual Philadelphia Eagles fan (and most Eagles fans under the age of 25), the number 20 is synonymous with one player – Brian Dawkins. The Eagles’ 2nd round pick in 1996 went on to play 13 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons for the Birds and, depending on who you ask, is arguably the franchise’s most beloved player. But before Dawkins dawned the number and later saw it retired with his name in the Linc’s rafters, it was sported by another hard-hitting Safety that captured the hearts of fans and teammates alike. His name was Andre Waters.

There is no question that the Eagles defense of the late 80’s and early 90’s was one of the most intimidating and talented units ever assembled. In an era that embraced the physicality of the game, Philadelphia’s defense was a direct reflection of their outspoken and in-your-face Head Coach, defensive mastermind and former Super Bowl champion, Buddy Ryan. While household names such as ‘The Minister of Defense’ (Reggie White) and ‘The Ultimate Weapon’ (Randall Cunningham) were easily the most recognizable faces of the franchise, the tenacity and intensity that Andre Waters displayed for 10 seasons as an Eagle is probably the most accurate portrayal of a team that instilled fear into opponents each and every Sunday.

Born the 9th of 11 children in poverty-stricken Belle Glade, Florida, Andre Waters (like many other Belle Glade residents) never had it easy. He gravitated towards football at a young age and eventually attended Pahokee High School; a school that later produced Rickey Jackson and Anquan Boldin, among others. After a moderately successful high school football career, Waters wound up at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Despite being an All-PSAC player his senior season, the 1984 NFL Draft (which boasted a bloated 12 rounds at the time) came, went and failed to see Waters selected by any of the league’s 28 teams. Waters did, however, make enough of an impression on Philadelphia Head Coach Marion Campbell, who opted to sign him as an undrafted free agent.

Although his first two seasons in the league were largely forgettable, statistically (Waters registered 10 total tackles in this span), Buddy Ryan’s arrival in 1986 saw Waters’ role and production increase dramatically. Ryan was instantly drawn to the young Safety’s intense approach to the game and while most scouts viewed Waters as a serviceable special teams player at best, Ryan recognized Waters’ ambition and helped mold him into one of the most feared players of his generation. Andre Waters wouldn’t just hit you: he would inflict pain. Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs…no one was spared. A hit on Rams’ Quarterback, Jim Everett, essentially forced the league to implement a rule banning defenders from hitting QB’s below the waist while in the pocket. Andre “Dirty” Waters had officially arrived.

From 1986 to 1991, Waters averaged an astounding 131.5 tackles a season, with his single season, career high 156 tackles occurring in Philadelphia’s historic 1991 campaign. Even with the firing of Ryan after the 1990 season, the Eagles’ D finished first in run, pass and total defense and carved out their place in history as arguably the most balanced defense of all time. Despite this tremendously successful season under Defensive Coordinator Bud Carson, the following two seasons saw Waters’ production significantly decrease as he managed to play in only 15 total games. Years of playing as if every down were his last appeared to be finally catching up to the once-indestructible warrior. After Philadelphia failed to offer him a new contract following the 1993 season, Waters followed former coach Buddy Ryan to Arizona where he played his final two years in the league for the Cardinals.

Life after football varies for a lot of ex-players. Most retire quietly, some transition into broadcasting and others have aspirations to coach. Andre Waters strived for the latter. Waters, as a Ryan disciple and with the ability to connect and teach fellow teammates the intricacies of the 46 defense, started off coaching at smaller universities such as Morgan State University, Alabama State University and the University of South Florida with the hopes of inevitably landing a gig in the pro’s. His intended climb from the university level to the mountaintop that is the NFL, however, proved to be more difficult than anticipated. In addition to being frustrated by the lack of opportunities at the next level, Waters also began to experience difficulties remembering even the simplest of things. Over a decade of repetitive head trauma, suffered from those same hits that everyone cheered, was now aggressively affecting Andre Waters’ brain. He once confirmed that even he stopped counting the number of concussions he sustained after surpassing 15. In the wee hours of November 20, 2006, Andre Waters tragically took his own life at the young age of 44; no suicide note was left.

Waters’ brain tissue, as confirmed by a study that took place after his death, mirrored that of an 85-90 year old man with early-stages of Alzheimer’s. This is believed to be the direct result of the numerous concussions that went largely unaccounted for. The controversy surrounding football-related head trauma, and Waters’ case in particular, has been well documented in various books, articles and most recently the movie ‘Concussion’ (which features a portrayal of Waters).

Most people will say football killed him. Others will choose to focus solely on the tragedy associated with the way he passed. To me, Waters’ story is about the hard-working and humble fan-favorite that embodied the essence of the Eagles. The man that, after hours of practicing in sweltering heat, would sign autographs and take pictures with any and all fans in attendance. The man that broke down in tears while speaking at the funeral of his former Defensive Coordinator, Bud Carson. The man whose infectious smile lit up the city of Philadelphia for 10 wonderful seasons. For these reasons and the countless others that constitute his legacy, we will always remember Andre Waters.

Film Room: Vinny Curry, Rushing the Quarterback

Film Room: Vinny Curry, Rushing the Quarterback

The worst thing about Chip Kelly running a 2-gap 3-4 scheme the past 3 years was that it meant Vinny Curry barely saw the field. In a passing league, the fact that you can have such a dominant pass rusher on the sideline for over 50% of the snaps just seems ridiculous to me.

Luckily, we didn’t trade Curry during Kelly’s tenure and he signed a long term extension before Free Agency began which I was so happy about. Curry is probably the Eagles best pass rusher and I’m incredibly excited about watching him next year in Schwartz’ scheme.

Just because the Eagles played a 3-4 the last few years, that doesn’t make Curry’s film worthless. In obvious passing downs, the Eagles frequently used a 4-3 defense last year and Curry would either line up as the defensive end or the defensive tackle with Connor Barwin playing the defensive end position.

I think Curry will be used a lot next year as the defensive tackle in obvious passing situations so that Schwartz can get Graham, Barwin, Curry and Cox on the field at once. For this film room piece, I broke down Curry as a defensive end and a defensive tackle when the Eagles played a 4-3 seeing as he’ll be playing these positions this year.

I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end like I always do. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s get to the film!

I’m going to start with clips that show Curry as the defensive end in more of a 4-3 look as this is where he will spend a lot of his playing time this year. The Eagles will use a ‘wide-9’ look obviously but that won’t be an every down thing. The first thing that stands out when watching Curry rush the quarterback is just his pure strength. He frequently wins with power like in the clip above. He keeps his legs driving and surprises the offensive tackle by just straight up bull rushing him and catching him off guard. You can see him fake the outside rush and then cut inside quickly. The offensive tackle tries to get a hand on him but Curry powers through his attempt and gets to the quarterback. It also helps when it takes 3 Lions players to stop Fletcher Cox who flat out abuses the center here.

Curry doesn’t get to the quarterback here but he shows great speed and athleticism. He gets off the line of scrimmage extremely quickly and easily beats the tackle with pure speed but the guard manages to prevent him from getting to Cam. How much value you put into a quick first step depends on your preference and how you evaluate pass rushers. Personally, I always look for a guy with a quick first step. It’s not enough to make you a great pass rusher but it is seriously helpful as shown here.

Okay, so leaving Vinny Curry one on one against a tight end is never ever going to work. Still, it’s a good clip to show because it once again shows his lightning quick first step and his ability to bend the edge. This is not a knock on Graham, but if you pause this clip half a second after the snap, Curry is already getting up field and Graham has barely moved yet. It’s not even deliberate but I swear Fletcher Cox makes an unbelievable play in so many of these clips. It’s basically a Curry/Cox film room piece, just look at Cox here. Graham gets through too, poor Tannehill.

Curry slightly overruns this play but I love how he uses his hands here. Using your hands well is absolutely critical if you are going to be an elite pass rusher. Although it’s very difficult as a pass rusher, trying to keep one arm free can be very helpful as shown here and this is a great swim move by Curry. When you’re a defensive lineman and the offensive lineman ends up on the ground, you know you’ve won that battle.

Curry can’t get to the quarterback here but it’s another good outside rush and he almost does enough to get there. Just like in the previous clips, Curry is able to stop the tackle from getting a strong punch by staying low and hiding his chest. Curry then uses his hands well, he uses his outside hand to club the offensive lineman and uses his inside hand to rip up through the offensive lineman. Curry can’t bend the edge like some of the elite outside pass rushers and it shows here where he just can’t do enough to get to the quarterback.

Once again Curry just can’t get to the quarterback here but most plays you won’t as a pass rusher. Collapsing the pocket like he is able to do here always puts pressure on the quarterback though and can force mistakes. The offensive tackle is expecting Curry to try to bend the edge here as Curry starts by rushing up field. As you can see through, Curry takes a sharp step to the inside and charges the tackle head on while staying low and trying to hide his chest. The tackle actually does a decent job and manages to get his hands on Curry’s chest but Curry still pushes him back into the quarterback and this shows off his power again.

Right, let’s move on to a few clips of Curry rushing from inside as a defensive tackle on clear passing situations. I knew Curry rushed from the inside a lot last year but I couldn’t believe he did it so much. I can understand why though, he is really good at rushing from the defensive tackle position, much better than I realized if I’m honest. Although Curry doesn’t really get anywhere here, he does look like he’s going to beat the center but is knocked over by the over guard. I think we’ll see this look a lot next year on third down too, Barwin-Curry-Cox-Graham. Good luck opposing quarterbacks on third and long!

Here Curry gets the sack with another great swim move. He keeps his chest hidden so the offensive guard can’t get a strong punch at the start which is key. Even when being doubled at the start Curry keeps his legs moving and this just shows how strong he is. Once again if you pause the clip just after the snap of the ball, most the Eagles players haven’t even got going yet and Curry has already initiated contact with the guard. This is a great example of a quick first step and a great use of hands that results in a sack.

This is another good example of great hands and a quick first step. Curry has that guard beaten by using his inside hand to club the defender and then using his outside hand to swim around him. He uses his hands so quickly here, the guard has almost no chance of getting his hands on Curry’s chest. Sadly the center ends up in his way without even really trying to block him and Curry can’t get to the quarterback although he tries his best even when falling to the ground. Still, his pressure up the middle and Barwin’s outside rush forces Eli to step to the left and this results in him in walking straight into Graham’s rush.

This is such a great play, Curry is relentless as a rusher and it’s so fun to watch. He’s literally being doubled teamed the entire play yet he never gets pushed back he just keeps his legs moving and uses his hands well to fight off the offensive lineman and not let them stop his momentum. Just look at the power he shows as he fights through both blocks, you can literally see how much he wants to get to the quarterback. It’s awesome to watch, Schwartz is going to love this guy.

In these posts I try to point out a players strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, Curry doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses when rushing the quarterback. But I guess if I had to be picky, he does rely on bull rushes a lot when lining up inside. He’s not an elite bend the edge type guy anyway but when he’s playing as a defensive tackle he tries to overpower guards a lot of the time by bull rushing them. He’s rushing the left guard here and as you can see sometimes he just won’t be able to overpower these guys so he needs to have a better counter move when he gets locked up with an offensive lineman. Here he doesn’t really use his hands and he fails to use a counter move after finding himself locked up with the lineman.

Let’s end on an awesome play, because why not? This play is kind of random, as you can see the two inside linebackers are Cox and Curry. Just look how athletic Curry is though, he bends the edge well and converts speed to power really well here. Once again he uses his hands excellently and stops the offensive lineman from getting his hands on his chest. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Curry used as a linebacker occasionally on passing downs, he looks pretty good!

Overall

To be a great pass rusher, you need to be relentless. Vinny Curry is exactly that. He rushes the quarterback every snap like his life depends on him getting to the quarterback which is exactly the mentality that you need to have. Curry is going to excel next season and the sky really is the limit for him in Schwartz’ scheme.

Curry is a pretty special pass rusher. He’s not an elite bend the edge guy but he’s a good athlete and can still bend the edge well enough but he can also win with just pure power. He has an incredible first step and also uses his hands extremely well which is a deadly combination. I saw a number of good pass rushing moves including the rip and swim move consistently and he was very good at getting low and hiding his chest to prevent offensive lineman from getting a strong initial punch on him.

Curry can beat you in a number of different ways but just like anyone he isn’t perfect. Curry wins early so often that he hasn’t really developed a strong counter move if he does lose the initial battle at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes he will rely on his first step and the bull rush move too much when lining up inside as a defensive tackle and elite guards will not let him simply overpower them. However, overall Curry is a really impressive pass rusher who will be aiming for double digit sacks next year and should get there.

Final note from me, if you like these posts feel free to follow the blog and follow me on twitter of course (@JonnyPage9) – I’ll be having more film room pieces out in the future on Lane Johnson and maybe Jordan Matthews. Also, if you want to see me breakdown anyone else tweet me or comment below and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already broke down Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe and you can see all of these by clicking here!

Film Room: Jordan Hicks

Film Room: Jordan Hicks

Breaking down Jordan Hicks for this piece was a lot of fun. When I broke down the other rookies, Eric Rowe and Nelson Agholor, I posted quite a few negative plays of them. If you’ve read my work before you know I try to be very impartial and I simply breakdown what I see, there’s no point in doing this if I’m going to be biased.

It was really hard to find negative plays by Hicks though, he just didn’t make many. He didn’t play like a rookie middle linebacker at all, I barely ever saw any so called ‘rookie mistakes’ from him and he was really consistent. I wanted to go back and watch Hicks and see if he played as well as we all thought he did. I watched basically every snap of his so I have a pretty good feel for him as a player now.

I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end like I always do. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s get to the clips!

Let’s begin with a basic play that just shows his instincts and athleticism perfectly. I decided to show this angle because it shows off his athleticism so well but the other angle shows you how well he diagnoses this play better. The second he sees the guard getting up the field he recognizes it’s a screen and gets to the receiver straight away. Yes, he fails to wrap up the ball carrier and this is something I saw a few times so he will need to work on his tackling in the offseason but I still love plays like this.

Hicks is really good in coverage, he’s not just athletic but he’s very instinctive in zone coverage and he always seems to have a feel for where the quarterback wants to go with the ball as you’ll see in the next few clips. Although he could have picked this ball off, it shows how well he’s reading Brees while staying close to the receivers around him and he makes a really athletic play on the ball.

Hicks misreads this play and he occasionally does get done by play-action but he’s certainly not the only rookie linebacker to get caught out by play-action a few times. However, I like this play because once again it just shows how quick and athletic he is. The tight end certainly should catch this ball but there’s no doubt Hicks puts pressure into him dropping it. Just ignore the result of the play though and keep your eyes on Hicks the whole time. Watch how quickly he changes direction and the acceleration he shows to recover, that’s impressive.

Hicks is right in the middle of the screen here and this is another good example of his athleticism and great coverage. He knows exactly where the tight end is going even when he’s behind him and he takes away this throw completely.

This is just another awesome play, he’s the guy in the middle of the screen to the right by the way. I feel like I keep pointing out how athletic he is and how instinctive he is in zone coverage but it’s because he is! Hicks basically takes away both of the quarterback’s main two reads here. He takes away the slot receiver first on the in route but he knows that once that receiver gets past him he’s running into another defenders zone so he comes off the slot receiver and quickly recognizes that the quarterback wants to throw the ball to the outside receiver on a deeper in and he gets right in front of the throwing lane. This forces the quarterback to throw it over him and there’s basically no chance of him completing this throw. If you pause the play before the quarterback releases it, if Hicks had followed the slot receiver just a second more, the second read would have been open. This is a great example of a player knowing his coverage and showing great awareness of what’s around him.

I’ll end talking about Hicks in coverage by showing some examples of Hicks in man coverage. This is against Chris Thompson who is a good receiver out the backfield. He initially beats Hicks but Hicks knows the situation and knows his main aim is to simply not let Thompson into the end zone. After staying close to him he accelerates and makes a great tackle, leaving the Redskins two yards short of the endzone.

This is a similar example to the last play and again it just shows smart football. It’s 3rd down and 10, Hicks doesn’t need to get aggressive and try and jump the route and end up getting beat by a double move or a wheel route so he plays it safe. Still, I love the aggressiveness and acceleration you see from him the second he sees Cousins throw it.

This is just perfect coverage, Brees sensibly decides to throw it way out in front because Hicks is in a great position to intercept the ball.

This was one of my favorite plays from last year. Yes, it’s a pretty rubbish throw and not a great route but I love the way he’s always looking at the quarterback and the second the balls thrown he shows that acceleration again and picks it off.

Lastly, I’ll show a clip of Hicks getting beat by Witten in man coverage because Hicks did really struggle to cover Witten in this game. That’s no real surprise though Witten is excellent at getting open on these shorter routes and it’s hardly a shock that Hicks struggled to cover him. Overall, Hicks is excellent in zone coverage and very good in man coverage too.

Let’s move on to Hicks in the running game now. A lot of what Hicks does is just smart football, if I could describe him in one word I would describe him as intelligent. He won’t make as many ‘flash’ plays as someone like a Mychal Kendricks but he’s extremely consistent at getting the job done. Hicks has to cover 2 gaps here and if he flies straight through one, the running back has a chance at escaping through the other gap. Hicks realizes this so he slows the running back down and is able to tackle him at the line of scrimmage. This gap awareness will be crucial when Hicks plays in Jim Schwartz wide 9 next year.

Here’s a pretty simple stop by Hicks but I like this play because it shows his ability to get off blocks while keeping his eyes in the backfield. He gets some help from Bennie Logan of course, who is just a beast.

Another smart play, Hicks avoids the Saints offensive lineman and is then tempted to fly through that big gap and try to make a play behind the line of scrimmage. In the end he sensibly decides not to and makes a great tackle on the running back who only gets around two yards.

Here’s another good play going downhill, Hicks does a great job getting low in order to avoid being blocked and is still able to make a play on the runner despite having an offensive lineman trying to block him. Hicks understands angles very well in the running game, he rarely finds himself overrunning the play or running directly into an offensive lineman. Even simple plays like this show an intelligent footballer .

Let’s end with my favorite play of the year by Hicks. He starts on the right side of the screen, now watch the difference between him and DeMeco. DeMeco can’t shed the block and ends up getting no where despite the runner going to his side. Hicks shows great athleticism and awareness to shed the first block and send the Cowboys offensive lineman falling to the turf. He keeps going and shows fantastic speed to make it all the way outside and then lays a big hit. This is the very definition of a sideline to sideline play by a linebacker.

Overall

I think Jordan Hicks is a stud. Honestly, I think I have a higher opinion of him now than I did before I wrote this piece. He is a perfect fit at linebacker for the modern day NFL and he is a true 3-down linebacker. Those guys aren’t easy to find. He’s very good both in coverage and downhill against the run too. His zone coverage particularly impressed me, he just looks so natural in coverage which is where so many inside linebackers struggle.

I don’t have any concerns about Hicks playing in Schwartz’ defensive scheme at all. The MLB in a wide 9 has to do a lot but I think Hicks can do it all. Hicks shows great gap awareness and this is something that will be crucial in Schwartz’ wide 9 scheme. Hicks is a true sideline to sideline linebacker and he also has the coverage ability to play the deep middle in a Tampa 2 which I expect Schwartz to use occasionally.

Hicks is incredibly instinctive and smart, he rarely takes a false step or overruns a play as he understands angles in the running game well which is really impressive considering he was a rookie. However, he isn’t perfect. His biggest weakness is sadly with injuries. Hicks missed a lot of time last year and also had injuries in college which was one reason why he fell to the 3rd round. On top of that, Hicks can’t rush the quarterback like someone like Mychal Kendricks can and Hicks did miss a few tackles too.

Hicks can learn to rush the passer better but in Schwartz’ scheme he may not blitz much anyway, I’m sure he can improve his tackling too which wasn’t bad but he did miss a few. I’m not concerned about Hicks’ weaknesses, the only one that genuinely worries me is his history with injuries. Fingers crossed that Hicks can stay healthy next year because I really think he will flourish as the MLB in Jim Schwartz’ defence.

Just to end on a quick note from me, if you like these posts feel free to follow the blog and follow me on twitter of course (@JonnyPage9) – I’ll be having more film room pieces out in the future on Vinny Curry and Lane Johnson. Also, if you want to see me breakdown anyone else tweet me or comment below and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already broke down Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe and you can see all of these by clicking here! I appreciate the feedback for these posts too as they take a bit of time to do but it’s good to go back and watch these younger guys.

Introducing Joe Douglas

Introducing Joe Douglas

Joe Douglas is no stranger to success. Spending 15 years under genius GM Ozzie Newsome’s watchful eye in Baltimore, Douglas was awarded the opportunity to learn from the best in the business. His career began as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2000, the same year the Ravens won their first Super Bowl. Hard Knocks enthusiasts might even recall watching Douglas take on the difficult task of informing players that they were going to be cut by the team.

By 2003, he had been allocated the responsibility of scouting in the Northeast area; a position he held for five seasons. After transitioning to the East Coast (Douglas played a major role in the Ravens’ selection of franchise quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP, Joe Flacco) in 2008 and Southeast region from 2009 through 2011, Douglas was named the team’s National Scout in 2012. As a National Scout, some of his responsibilities included coordinating the signing of undrafted free agents and overseeing the evaluation of potential prospects across the nation.

Considering Baltimore’s penchant for front office stability in an unforgiving and impatient NFL world, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Douglas accepted a position to become the College Scouting Director for the Chicago Bears in 2015. In his one season with Chicago, Douglas’s fingerprints were all over a critically acclaimed draft that saw the Bears select OLB Leonard Floyd, G Cody Whitehair, and DT Jonathan Bullard. Still, for reasons unknown, Chicago GM Ryan Pace allowed Douglas to interview for Philadelphia’s “personnel head” opening despite his relative success in his lone season with the Bears. After an interview with the Eagles that, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was believed to be a mere formality, it looks as if Douglas will indeed be named Philadelphia’s new personnel chief.

One long-standing blemish on the Eagles de-facto General Manager Howie Roseman’s career is that he doesn’t necessarily have the best eye for talent. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better at wheeling and dealing, negotiating contracts, or landing sought after, big name free agents, but his ability to identify and evaluate perennial All Pro players has been splotchy to say the least.

While it’s likely that Roseman will retain final control over personnel, the addition and presence of Joe Douglas should not be overlooked. Throughout the league, Douglas has been regarded as a high character “football guy” with a strong ability to communicate and unify staff. One NFL personnel man even went as far as to call Douglas a future GM, per ESN’s Geoff Mosher. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has referred to him as “one of the best talent evaluators I’ve ever been around.”

So, yes, Eagles fans should be excited about this move. Joe Douglas’s resume and ringing endorsements speak for themselves. He’s proven to be a bright, young mind that continues to succeed with each rise in the ranks of NFL hierarchy. Whether or not he can co-exist with the often prickly Roseman remains to be seen but the Eagles certainly appear to have hit a home run with this hire.

UPDATE: Per Neil Stratton, Douglas’s former colleague in Baltimore, Andy Weidl, has agreed to join the Eagles as Assistant Director of Player Personnel. Daniel Jeremiah then echoed what many in the league feel about the abilities of both Douglas and Weidl.

Although there was understandable concern when the Eagles initially suspended their search for Roseman’s second-in-command, things now seem to be shaping up nicely in the city of Brotherly Love.

How the Eagles can Compete in 2016

How the Eagles can Compete in 2016

 

When the Eagles traded with the Browns to move up to select Carson Wentz, the overall feeling was a mixed. Yes, there’s excitement, to potentially land a franchise quarterback, and end the annual question of “can (insert average quarterback’s name here) do enough with the supporting cast around him to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl?” While there’s excitement around Wentz, there is also a depressing cloud hanging over Eagles’ fans head when thinking about the immediate future. What about 2016? A first round pick that will sit, and have little to no impact on the upcoming season. What’s the fun in that?

Well first off, if Carson Wentz ends up becoming the quarterback the Eagles front office believes he can become, his no impact in 2016 is absolutely worth the time. Secondly, why is it that we give prospects 3 years to judge them, but also expect impact from day one? You always hear “select best player available, it’s how good teams draft.” While true, if you’re taking best player available, and waiting 3 years to see what type of player they become, how can you be upset if the Eagles take a player they plan on red-shirting his first year?

Fact is, good teams don’t rely on rookies to come in and impact the team immediately. Bad teams do. Yes, some teams are fortunate and find gems in the middle to late rounds that impact in year one. And often times early round picks do as well. But again, good teams don’t look for instant production. Outside of Ezekiel Elliott, I don’t see a rookie in this year’s draft taking a team to the next level in terms of making an average team good, or a good team great, etc.

When looking at the Eagles heading into 2016, before the draft, the outlook on them was positive. They re-signed their own, they paid young players entering their prime in free agency, they got their quarterback for the next two years. The Eagles did everything they could to enter draft weekend with minimal glaring needs allowing them to draft players for long-term. Again, a plan that teams with disciplined front offices do. It’s easy to say you’ll take the best player available and not draft by need, but it’s harder to actually execute it.

Heading into the 2016 season, the Eagles have a chance to surprise people. Every season, there are teams that media outlets predict will make a Super Bowl run, typically teams that have big free agent signings. This year, the Giants did, so expect a lot of buzz around them. The thing that sucks about the hype is it’s due to teams signing big names at skill positions. Eagles did it in 2011, but the team struggled. Why? The trenches. The offensive line and defensive lines were atrocious. 2015 was similar for the Eagles. Eagles added guys like DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell, but the offensive line was so bad, the Eagles’ offense was terrible.

This year, the Eagles lack the sex appeal on paper. But addressing the offensive line in free agency and the draft makes the offensive line a strength on offense, which most overlook when looking at a depth chart. Below, I will highlight a few players the Eagles are going to be leaning on to play well in 2016, starting with the skill positions on offense.

Nelson Agholor:

Anyone who follows my twitter handle knows my love for Nelson Agholor is real. He has everything you want in a number one wide receiver. Natural hands, creates separation, a really good route runner, and speed. Agholor was hindered by Sam Bradford being rusty in the early parts of 2016, and when Bradford finally began to settle in, Agholor suffered a high ankle sprain. Agholor is a player I saw create separation against corners like Darrelle Revis and Desmond Trufant. When evaluating a wideout, remember, more goes into it than the box score. Sometimes a guy gets open, but the ball isn’t thrown his way. No doubt Agholor had his own issues, but I expect a big year in 2016. My man Jonny Page took a deep look into Agholor’s route running in 2015. Check it out here.

Zach Ertz:

Zach Ertz, to me, is the most important piece in this offense, outside of the quarterback. There’s no doubt in my mind that Ertz will be the focal point in Doug Pederson’s offense. Pederson having Travis Kelce in Kansas City, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich having Antonio Gates in San Diego, these guys know how to scheme, and create mismatches for versatile tight ends. While we all expected Chip Kelly to utilize Ertz to the best of his abilities, fact is he never did. We always saw flashes, but never a consistent string of games put together until the final four of 2015. Those numbers above are very impressive. Ertz should be one of the first tight ends selected in fantasy football this year.

Sam Bradford:

This is obviously assuming Sam Bradford changes his diaper and shows up for training camp, which seems likely as he literally has no other option other than to retire. Look, before Bradford started acting like a prima donna, fans were excited about what Bradford could do in Pederson’s offense. And rightfully so. He gets an offseason dedicated to getting better, and not rehabbing his knee, he’s familiar with his wide receivers in Matthews, Agholor and Ertz. Nothing’s changed. Bradford missing voluntary camp isn’t ideal, but it isn’t season changing. This is the best situation Bradford has ever been in. A career year could be on the horizon.

Eric Rowe:

The 2nd year corner ended 2015 on a positive note. Rowe flashed against talented wide receivers in Sammy Watkins and Pierre Garcon. Rowe will be asked to play a lot of man-to-man coverage in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. While Nolan Carroll is a reliable number two corner, Rowe will more than likely be asked to be the team’s number one corner. The talented front 4 of the Eagles is going to generate pressure which should help out Rowe and the back end of the defense. And again, Jonny took a dive into Eric Rowe in coverage last season. You can see it here.

Mychal Kendricks:

After a very promising 2014, Mychal Kendricks was very bad in 2015. It may have had to do with fatigue since the defense was on the field more than any other defense in the league. Whatever it was, Kendricks struggled a lot. Jim Schwartz will implement a wide-9 defense which will put more run support responsibility on the line backers. Schwartz’s scheme is down-hill as he asks the defense to attack the line of scrimmage, which fits Mychal Kendricks strengths. Less thinking, more attacking. The Eagles desperately need Kendricks to have a bounce back year in 2016.

While on paper, the Eagles don’t look like a very competitive team, them addressing the offensive line in free agency and in the draft will make that unit a strength this upcoming year. The addition of Jim Schwartz and the wide-9 is going to benefit Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry a ton. The Eagles could flirt near the top of the league in sacks in 2016. With that being said, the Eagles need their young core to play to their potential, and Sam Bradford to take control of the offense. If done, the Eagles could take the NFC East crown.

Film Room: Isaac Seumalo

Film Room: Isaac Seumalo

I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Isaac Seumalo was when the Eagles picked him. So watching him for this piece was the first I had ever seen of him. Considering a lot of people had never heard of him, the reaction to the pick on my timeline was actually pretty good as I think people knew how badly we needed offensive line help.

I watched the two games of Seumalo on Draft Breakdown and a couple of other YouTube clips I could find, he’s playing right guard in all the clips below. Seumalo will be competing for the left guard spot this year and if you want an in-depth look at the Eagles right guard click here to view my film piece on Brandon Brooks! How’s that for a plug?

PFF had Seumalo as one of the best pass blockers and to be honest, in the two games I watched he spent a lot more time run blocking than pass blocking in one on one situations. So I focused on his run blocking for the majority of the piece.

Anyway, let’s just get to the film. I’ll do what I normally do with my film pieces, I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s start with the basics, his run blocking.

I love this play. He initially creates a running lane by double teaming the defensive tackle and he shows great feet to quickly change direction and take out the linebacker which creates a huge hole. This play doesn’t just show good athleticism but it shows good spatial awareness and a smart football player which can’t be underrated.

Here’s your standard nasty Guardy McBeef block. He creates a nice lane and stops the defensive tackle from making a play on the ball carrier.

Here’s another Guardy McBeef block. I like the aggressive finish here too, he isn’t mucking around.  He doesn’t always finish blocks aggressively but he does here which is good to see.

Here’s another one of those runs where he double teams the defensive tackle then gets to the linebacker to create a hole. This is pretty impressive, I really didn’t expect to see these kind of blocks so much.

He was pretty impressive when he was asked to pull and kick out too which is good to see as he’ll be asked to do this a lot by Pederson I imagine. You can tell he’s pretty athletic, which I guess he should be considering he’s not a big guy so it would be pretty worrying if he wasn’t. Seeing as he is undersized as a guard, I expect Pederson attempt will get him pulling and blocking at the second level a lot.

Here’s another example of him pulling across, I liked this play just because of how he finished. The guy was already being blocked so it wasn’t that impressive but it’s always nice to see a lineman put a defender on the ground.

As I mentioned above, considering he’s undersized you would expect him to get to the second level quickly. Although this is true, he doesn’t always finish his blocks when he actually gets to the defender. You can see that here, where he gets to the guy but it’s a sort of weak block. He needs to be more aggressive and he gets brushed aside really easily here.

It’s a similar story here, he gets to the linebacker at the second level but he can’t really do enough to block him out of the play. Admittedly this is a hard angle to make a block at but I guess he deserves some criticism for taking the angle that he does.

Here is sadly another example of him being pretty bad in space. This is on a screen pass and I’m not quite sure what he is doing here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s bad in space. I just think he can improve a lot. He’s certainly athletic and he can definitely get to the second level and locate the defender he just needs to work on finishing his blocks and using his hands quicker to prevent the linebacker from getting off his block.

His run blocking for the most part was really good, I was impressed overall. I’m being picky here because the block is good enough on this play but sometimes I’ve noticed he lunges into blocks and this is when he can struggle to sustain the block. You can see him kind of lunge here as he’s making the block, you don’t want to see your guard end up on the floor.

I was critical of his blocking at the second level earlier but that was mainly me just pointing out some flaws. For the most part, he’s good in space and can pull and kick out well. Here’s an example of him getting to the second level and preventing the linebacker from making a play. You can see that he doesn’t really provide the dominant ‘mauler’ type blocks that we love to see in big offensive lineman. If he’s still making the play though, I can live with that. At his size he’ll never be a mauler.

To finish, I’ll show a couple of clips of him in pass coverage. I won’t show many examples because just trust me, his pass blocking is really good and I don’t want the post to be any longer! He gets a good punch here and maintains his blocks, he looks very calm and controlled here. He frequently wins early in the snap which is crucial.

He gets beat here similarly to how he did earlier, he has problems when he lunges. When he lunges he doesn’t keep his feet moving and he becomes static and because he’s undersized it’s easy for the defender to toss him aside. This is also a weird play because he doesn’t need to be so aggressive, the defense are only rushing three and he could have double teamed the defender with the center. I didn’t see many faults in his pass protection overall.

I keep ending on negatives plays with my film room pieces so let’s end on a high for a change! The defensive tackle tries to bull rush him but Seumalo anchors well and uses his hands effectively. He’s got a really good base when pass blocking, he doesn’t always initiate contact and dominate his opponent like Brandon Brooks does but he’s effective at stopping the rusher getting past him which at the end of the day is his main job.

Overall

I’m pretty impressed with Seumalo and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the day one starter at left guard. I really recommend you watch the Brandon Brooks piece again because you can see the different styles of both guards. Brooks initiates contact and simply dominates his opponent on a frequent basis which is why he just got paid a ton of money.

Seumalo isn’t like that, he’s not a mauler and he isn’t particularly flash but he gets the job done. I can see why he fell to the third round though. He has had injury problems in the past and he is undersized for a guard which means some analysts saw him better suited as a center. Also, he sometimes struggles to sustain blocks and needs to use his hands better. I think he’s good enough to play guard in the NFL though and I’m assuming he’ll attempt to put on some weight when he gets here too.

I don’t think Seumalo has the ability to ever be an all-pro at guard but I think he should be a reliable starter for a number of years. He’s very technically sound, rarely gets beat and is an intelligent player. He obviously has flaws otherwise he would have been an earlier pick but his flaws are minor and I wonder if he was overlooked because he isn’t your classic ‘mauler’ type guard that everyone loves. Some may be concerned that really big defensive tackles will be able to bull rush him back into the quarterback as he’s undersized and although that’s a legitimate concern, it didn’t happen in the games I watched.

He might not be the sexiest pick in the world but Seumalo is a good player who will hopefully be protecting Wentz for years to come. If the worst comes to the worst and he really struggles at guard, he’s a versatile backup to have and he could even push Kelce for a starting job at center in a couple of years which isn’t awful for a third round pick. I don’t envision that happening though and as long as he’s healthy he should be starting at left guard as early as this year.

Eagles new DB Jalen Mills is a Day 3 Steal

Eagles new DB Jalen Mills is a Day 3 Steal

It’s not very often that a talented early-to-mid-round prospect falls to the tail end of the 7th round. In fact, there are really only a few circumstances that would justify such a slip: either (A) the prospect suffered an injury that has teams weary of banking a more valuable pick on someone that might not see the field for the foreseeable future, or (B) said prospect has had an off-the-field incident (or incidents) that has caused his stock to drop, as most franchises are understandably skeptical of investing in a player with character concerns.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s 7th round selection, Jalen Mills, is associated with both the former and the latter. He missed a handful of games in 2015 after fracturing his fibula and tearing ligaments in his ankle during a preseason practice. Although Mills did return to finish the season, starting the final 5 games, the fairly significant injury did occur less than a year ago. Still, the promising four-year starter’s production on the field was largely overshadowed by an accusation of battery against a woman in 2014. Despite the charge being dropped as a result of his completing a pretrial diversion program (a program that required Mills to pay the victim’s medical bills, among other things), that type of baggage sticks around, especially when considering the number of domestic violence-related issues the league has encountered over the past few years.

Given these glaring red flags, drafting Mills seems like an unlikely gamble for an Eagles team that has managed to avoid off-the-field drama, right? Well, not exactly. You see, ‘Captain Culture’ himself (aka ex-Eagles coach/GM Charles Kelly) is no longer around to dictate the personality of the team. Kelly, to a fault, seemed to value a player’s propensity to follow rules and never question authority almost more than he valued a player’s talent. The selection of Jalen Mills, along with Alex McCalister and Wendell Smallwood, however, are indicative of a clear shift in the front office’s philosophy on building a winning team. Guys with warning labels plastered all over their resumes are not entirely off limits, provided both executive VP of football operations, Howie Roseman, and first-year head coach, Doug Pederson, believe they can handle themselves in a professional manner going forward.

Adding Mills, purely based on potential, is a no-brainer. What the Eagles have acquired is a versatile defensive back that has experience outside, in the slot and at safety. The 6’0”, 191 lb. former LSU Tiger is a consistent and sound tackler that finished his college career with 216 total tackles, 6 interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He should add immediate depth to an Eagles secondary that is currently comprised of two sure-starters at safety, a promising second-year outside CB and a whole lot of uncertainty. Mills will have the opportunity to compete for the primary nickel spot, along with a host of others, and as a backup to Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Ironically enough, his build reminds me of former Eagle Walter Thurmond (who, as a career slot corner showed he was more than capable of playing safety last season).

While the 2014 accusation against him is as unfortunate as it is uncomfortable, it is important to remember that there was no definitive proof of guilt. Assuming Mills is not the monster various members of the media have made him out to be, the Eagles might have just unearthed a diamond in the rough that can contribute to this team for years to come.