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Looking Around at the (bad) NFC East

Looking Around at the (bad) NFC East

It’s the offseason and it’s about that time where teams start feeling good about where they’re headed going into a brand new season. This player looks great. A bad defense from a year ago looks improved. Average players are hyped to be killing it in camp. Blah blah blah.

I wanted to take a look at the NFC East and how the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins are looking heading into the 2016 season and beyond. Below are random facts/stats with no particular motive other than to highlight things that are bad, and not good regarding each team in the NFC East.

First up, “America’s Team.”

DALLAS COWBOYS:

  • Tony Romo enters the 2016 season 36 years old.
  • Tony Romo is Recovering from back surgery and a fractured collarbone in 2015.
  • Tony Romo is set to make $20.8 million in 2016, which is the 8th highest of all QB’s in the NFL.
  • Tony Romo has a 2-4 record in the playoffs.
  • In the 4 games Tony Romo did play in 2015, he threw 5 TD’s 7 INT’s and just 884 yards.
  • Demarcus Lawrence led the Cowboys in sacks in 2015 with 8. Lawrence is suspended the first 4 games for violating the league’s drug policy.
  • Randy Gregory, a 2015 2nd round pick is also suspended the first 4 games of 2016 for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
  • Greg Hardy was 2nd on the Cowboys in sacks in 2015, he is a free agent.
  • Two possible starting options are rookie DE Charles Tapper, who had 13.5 career sacks at Oklahoma and 2nd year DE Ryan Russell, who has 0 career sacks.
  • Brandon Carr has a cap hit of $10.2 million in 2016, that’s the 9th highest mark of all NFL CB’s.
  • PFF ranked Carr 55th out of 114 qualified CB’s in 2015.
  • The Cowboys entire defense in 2015 had 71 total QB pressures. Fletcher Cox alone had 77 in 2015.
  • The Cowboys selected RB Ezekiel Elliott in the draft over DB Jalen Ramsey, who some see as a once-in-a-generation-type-player.
  • The Cowboys’ have a record of 128-128 since the year 2000.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS:

  • Eli Manning has a cap hit of $24.2 million. That’s the 2nd highest cap hit of all QB’s.
  • Eli Manning is 35 years old and will be 38 by the time his contract expires.
  • The Giants signed DE Olivier Vernon to a 5-year $85 million dollar contract in free agency.
  • In 2015, Vinny Curry in 426 snaps had 34 QB pressures. Olivier Vernon had 41 QB pressures in 943 snaps.
  • Olivier Vernon got $52.5 million IN GUARANTEED MONEY. Vinny Curry signed a 5-year $47 million deal this offseason. (LOL)
  • Ereck Flowers, who the Giants selected 9th overall in 2015, allowed the most QB hurries of all OT’s in the NFL last season.
  • Only 2 QB’s were hit more than Eli manning last season.
  • Pro Football Focus has been running since 2007, Ereck Flowers in 2015 was the lowest graded tackle they’ve ever graded in pass protection.
  • PFF graded out 88 safeties in pass coverage in 2015, Landon Collins, the Giants’ 2nd round selection in 2015, ranked dead last. 88/88.
  • Since 2008, the Giants have faced the Eagles 17 times. The Giants have went 4-13 in those meetings.

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS:

  • The Washington Redskins are paying CB Chris Culliver $9.25 million dollars in 2016.
  • Chris Culliver is currently a free agent.
  • The Redskins signed Josh Norman to a 5-year, $75 million dollar contract in free agency. Norman will be 32 by the time his contract expires.
  • Redskins’ 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson is 7 months older than Eagles’ 2015 1st round pick WR Nelson Agholor.
  • Josh Norman’s cap hit in 2017 is $20 million. That would rank 9th highest among QB cap hits in 2017.
  • Kirk Cousins is being paid $19.9 million in 2016. That’s the 9th highest among all NFL QB’s.
  • Kirk Cousins has never beat a team with a record above .500.
  • Kirk Cousins and the Redskins will face 6 teams that reached the postseason in 2015.
  • The Redskins won the NFC East in 2015. No NFC East division winner has repeated since 2004 when the Eagles did it.
  • The Redskins have won the NFC East 4 times since 1991. They’ve never won more than 9 games after winning the division.

 

Fact is, the NFC East is a crapshoot every year. The Eagles do have a lot of their own questions, but simply put, any one of these four teams have a chance at the division crown. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to comment and leave feedback, it’s greatly appreciated!

Fly Eagles Fly.

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.

The Eagles Running Back Situation

The Eagles Running Back Situation

The date is March 12, 2015. DeMarco Murray has just agreed to a 5 year, 42 million dollar contract and has essentially signed on to be the Eagles’ feature running back for the next half decade. Following a burdensome 392 carry, 1,845 yard campaign, the 2014 NFL rushing champion’s arrival is coupled with the signing of another starting running back and former first round pick, Ryan Mathews. The collective thought across the organization is that, with the addition of these two pieces, the team is poised for a deep playoff run that could potentially have them competing for a Lombardi trophy in February.

While 2014 saw the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, eclipse 1,300 yards for the third time in his career, the frustration felt when the team failed to convert critical, short yardage 3rd and 4th down situations was difficult to ignore. Yes, a shaky and inconsistent offensive line was partly to blame. The fact remained however, that McCoy was often viewed as a running back that was looking for a home run on every play and, as a result, lost yards trying to make something out of nothing. His Barry Sanders-esque style of running made for memorable highlights that left fans’ jaws on the floor but former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly clearly lacked confidence in McCoy as it pertained to moving the chains when the offense needed a mere yard or two (the losses at San Francisco and Arizona come to mind).

So when Kelly jettisoned the soon-to-be 7th year running back (with a hefty cap hit nonetheless) to Buffalo for former Oregon LB Kiko Alonso, the signing of Murray seemed like a logical move at face value, right? Here was Kelly, practically stealing DeMarco from Dallas while also solving the short yardage woes that plagued them the previous season. Despite Murray’s ridiculous amount of touches in 2014, the addition of Mathews was clearly indicative of the Eagles’ intention to lighten the workload of Murray while also providing depth. The thought of a Murray/Mathews/Sproles three headed monster had both analysts and fans alike crowning the Eagles the league rushing champions before a single preseason game had even been played.

What a difference a year makes. To say DeMarco Murray was a disappointment is the understatement of the century. Not only did Murray fail to match even half of his rushing total from the previous season, he all too often looked like he was running in quicksand. There was no burst. There was no power. There appeared to be no effort. Adding insult to incompetency, Murray largely failed to embrace his new team and the city of Philadelphia as a whole – alienating players and coaches in the process. After the team’s biggest win of the season (one that saw the near-dead Eagles besting Bill Belichick and the mighty Patriots in New England), reports quickly surfaced of a conversation Murray had with owner Jeffrey Lurie on the plane ride back to Philadelphia. This “conversation”, by all accounts, consisted of Murray complaining about playing time and his role in Kelly’s offense. While Kelly had failed to capitalize on Murray’s strengths as a runner, it was painfully clear there was little left in the tank of the former All Pro.

Still, after Kelly’s abrupt firing a week before the season ended, there was a sense of slight optimism that perhaps the Eagles’ new head coach could salvage Murray, taking advantage of his skill set as a traditional down hill runner. Could Murray’s salty locker room relationship also be salvaged though? Freshly reinstated ‘General Manager’ Howie Roseman had no intention of finding out. In a brilliant front office move, Murray and his undeserving contract were shipped to Tennessee in a deal that saw the Eagles and Titans swap 4th round picks.

While ridding themselves of Murray (and his baggage) greatly benefited the team, there is now a glaring need at the running back position. Ryan Mathews, although effective when healthy, is simply too unreliable at this stage in his career. He is exactly what he was in San Diego – a quality back that cannot manage to stay on the field for a full season. Darren Sproles, despite being a consistent difference maker and fan favorite, is not the answer especially considering he’s 33 years old and might be nearing the end of his career. Kenjon Barner was a pleasant surprise in spurts last season but at 5’9 and with only 34 carries to his name, he is likely not your long term solution.

Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, there was heavy speculation that the Eagles might address this need by selecting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles’ decision last Wednesday to move up from the 8th selection to the 2nd selection (and give up a handful of significant draft picks in the process), however, left little doubt that North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz will be the player selected when the Eagles are on the clock Thursday night in Chicago. So what exactly is the RB position looking like when training camp begins this summer? It is possible that the Eagles head into the season with a Mathews/Sproles/Barner rotation but I’d consider this scenario unlikely. Although the Eagles dealt away a number of picks to Cleveland in order to move up, they still hold a respectable seven picks in this year’s draft. While Elliott will certainly be gone by the end of Day 1’s festivities, there are a number of intriguing prospects the Eagles could target on Days 2 and 3.

As far as personal preference goes, look no further than UCLA’s Paul Perkins. The 5’10, 208 lb. Junior ran a 4.54 40 and finished his final season at UCLA with 1,343 yards and 14 TDs. A pass catching threat in open space, with the ability to make multiple defenders miss, Perkins would have no trouble transitioning to a Doug Pederson offense that featured the likes of Jamaal Charles in his previous stint in Kansas City. Another potential option is Utah’s Devontae Booker. A two year starter at Utah, he finished his 2015 campaign with 1,261 rushing yards, 11 TDs and 37 receptions. Booker, like Perkins, would also provide the Eagles with immediate production and versatility at the running back position, as he possesses great vision, balance and is dangerous in open space.

If the Eagles opt to wait until Day 3 to select a running back, one name to keep an eye on is Indiana University’s Jordan Howard. If this name sounds mildly familiar, it might be because former player-turned-analyst Ike Taylor, in his infinite wisdom, mocked Howard to the Eagles at 8th OVERALL a few weeks ago. While Howard is a physically intimidating bruiser that seems to take joy in punishing opposing defenders, he most certainly is not worth a first round selection but should be available on Saturday should the Eagles want to wait to address the RB position.

Make no mistake, Carson Wentz will have (to quote Kanye West) all of the lights on him for the foreseeable future. The team did, after all, pull off a blockbuster deal to ensure they landed their savior that will, in theory, inevitably lead them to the promised land. What cannot be ignored, however, is that no matter how much the running back position is seemingly devalued as time goes on, the Eagles are in immediate need of stability at the position and will look to make up for the costly mistakes of seasons past this weekend.

Eagles Fans Must Be Patient With Carson Wentz

Eagles Fans Must Be Patient With Carson Wentz

Let’s jump straight to it. The Eagles traded the Cleveland Browns for the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. The Eagles also received the Browns’ 4th round pick in exchange for a 1st, 3rd and 4th in 2016, a 1st in 2017, and a 2nd in 2018. It’s a hefty price, but for the Eagles, they see this as a rare opportunity to not sacrifice too much of your future and land a potential franchise quarterback.

I had someone tell me yesterday that Jared Goff has informed friends close to him that the Rams will be picking him with the 1st overall pick. So I’ll go on and assume the Eagles will take Carson Wentz, who Doug Pederson has loved since he started scouting him, according to multiple reports.

A little background on Wentz: He’s 23 years old, stands in at 6’5, 240 pounds. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s big, athletic and very competitive. He comes from North Dakota State where the level of competition was nothing like he’ll face in the NFL. Wentz is going to take some time adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Expect a lot of interceptions, lack-of-timing with receivers and happy-feet from him early on. Yes, he will be taken number two overall, but understand he is somewhat a project.

Because Wentz needs time, the Eagles picking him makes a ton of sense. Normally, a team picking in the top-five let alone, number two overall has an awfully bad roster. The Eagles don’t, though. Remember, the Eagles were originally picking 13th in the draft. Of course that isn’t great either, but a roster for a team picking 13th is much more talented with less holes than a team picking 2nd.

“Sam Bradford is our starting quarterback,” Howie Roseman said at his press conference, just minutes after the trade between the Eagles and Browns was announced.

The Eagles will not look into trading Bradford, as the Eagles plan is to start him, and let Wentz learn the NFL ropes behind Chase Daniel and Bradford. Again, a quarterback coming from North Dakota State, playing against FCS competition, having less pressure and more than a year to sit back and learn is ideal. So many great QB prospects are drafted high, and pressure is on them to turn the franchise around. Normally with bad offensive lines, piss poor defenses and awful coaching.

Wentz enters a situation where he can learn. He’s not being drafted by a team that doesn’t have talent. The Eagles have a core of players they want to build around, hence all the re-signings done in the off-season. The coaching staff the Eagles put together on the offensive side of the ball heavily favors the quarterback position. John DeFilippo, who was the Browns offensive coordinator in 2015, somehow managed to get 20 TD’s, 12 INT’s, and 4,156 yards out of Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown and Austin Davis playing quarterback. Frank Reich, the Eagles offensive coordinator came from San Diego where he was the offensive coordinator and coached Phillip Rivers. Lastly, Doug Pederson, the Head Coach of the Eagles, from the Andy Reid coaching tree, is a former quarterback who knows a thing or two about the position. Carson Wentz will benefit greatly from this staff.

Fans must go into this situation with patience. Wentz more than likely won’t see the field in 2016, and may not even in 2017. Remember, Aaron Rodgers threw 59 passes in his first three seasons after being drafted by the Packers. Finding a franchise quarterback is one of the toughest things to do in sports. 2-3 years from now, we may look back and say the Eagles didn’t give up enough for Wentz. Time will tell, but patience is needed.

Howie Roseman Deserves Your Vote in the Presidential Election

Howie Roseman Deserves Your Vote in the Presidential Election

When Chip Kelly was fired and Philadelphia Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear Howie Roseman was in control of the roster, most fans were terrified. He’s too hands on, he can’t nail a draft, he’s not, dare I say, a football guy.

Doug Pederson was hired, fans continued to flip out. Then Jim Schwartz was hired as the defensive doordinator and fans flipped out aga.. Wait, almost every single Eagles fan was thrilled. Jim Schwartz is known for his attacking 4-3 defense. Flecther Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry in a wide-9? We like this move. Then Browns QB coach John Defilippo was hired as QB coach, and Chargers ex-offensive coordinator Frank Reich was hired as offensive coordinator. A strong staff around a rookie head coach is what you want. It started to make sense. Fans felt better. Okay let’s roll.

After the staff was in place, Howie then focused on the roster, and he’s done nothing short of a superb job. He started off by re-signing from within, Zach Ertz got a deal, Lane Johnson got a deal, Vinny Curry got a deal. All players that are entering their prime, all under 27 years old, and all at bargain prices because they didn’t hit free agency. Extending Brent Celek and Malcolm Jenkins were just cherries on top of the cake. The moves made fans feel better about the situation. The Eagles seemed to have a plan and they were executing it.

Free agency comes around and Howie Roseman somehow, some freaking way pulls off a trade to send Byron Maxwell and his contract along with Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins. I can’t explain how ridiculous this trade was. There wasn’t a single beat writer or fan that thought the Eagles would get any type of compensation back for Maxwell and his contract. This isn’t the NBA, players with large contracts aren’t just traded away. It’s a rarity in the NFL. Oh, and the fact that the Eagles moved up 5 spots in the 1st round of this year’s draft while getting rid of Maxwell’s contract is absolute robbery. Thanks, Dolphins.

Howie wasn’t done, though. He then somehow, some freaking way (x2) found a trading partner to take on DeMarco Murray and his large contract. The Tennessee Titans decided to flop 4th round picks with the Eagles. The true compensation for Philadelphia wasn’t moving up in the 4th round, it was getting rid of Murray’s contract. Thanks, Titans.

To put things into perspective, the Eagles getting rid of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell relieved $84.25 million off the contract books. Factor in the Eagles moved up in the 1st and 4th rounds while doing that. Unreal. Credit Howie Roseman. He deserves your vote in this year’s presidential election. Thanks again, Dolphins and Titans.

Heading into the offseason, everyone knew the Eagles’ biggest need was their offensive line. When free agency opened up, the Eagles made a few splashes. Brandon Brooks, the right guard from the Houston Texans was the top guard in free agency, says head coach Doug Pederson. Eagles landed him.

Other than Brooks, the Eagles have focused on defense and I absolutely love it. Rodney McLeod will be the free safety for the Eagles and Malcolm Jenkins will stay at strong safety. This move is my favorite. Malcolm Jenkins was the NFL’s best safety last year, and it was because he found his niche in playing close to the line of scrimmage. Signing McLeod keeps Jenkins in that similar role. Another thing I loved about the McLeod signing is that Eric Rowe will stay put at cornerback. There was talk he may move to safety, that won’t be the case. Rowe showed a ton of promise in his 1st year at cornerback and I can’t wait to see him in year 2.

Nigel Bradham, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, all former Buffalo Bills were signed. Nigel Bradham was the biggest signing of the three. The Eagles needed depth and a potential starting OLB for their new 4-3 scheme. Bradham is just that and played at his highest level when Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator of Buffalo. Expect Brooks and McKelvin to compete for starting DB jobs, whether it’s on the outside or at nickel, the depth and having players familiar with the scheme is most important.

Of all the great moves Howie Roseman has made this offseason. The re-signings, the free agent signings, his biggest test is in April. The NFL draft. To Howie’s credit, he has set the Eagles up nicely in the sense that there is not a pressing need the Eagles have to fill. Yes they need a starting guard, yes they need a starting cornerback, but sitting at #8 overall, and also having 9 total picks in the draft, Howie Roseman can enter the draft with a balanced approach, and take the best player available, something he hasn’t been able to do  in the past.

The draft is less than two months away and all eyes are on Howie Roseman. He’s passed his mid-terms, but the question is will he pass his final exam? Time will tell.

Stunted Growth? Why Sam Bradford’s surroundings have let him down

Stunted Growth? Why Sam Bradford’s surroundings have let him down

Before I begin this, let me make something clear, I genuinely have absolutely no idea what I want the Eagles to do at the quarterback position. None. I like Bradford and I thought he improved a great deal down the stretch. I also like the prospect of developing Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff though so. I really don’t know.

 

I’m going to ignore Bradford’s play in the last 7 games. That’s been covered already. I want to look at his previous years in the league though. People always say he can’t be blamed for his performances because the situation around him was awful. Was it really that bad though? Everyone says it was awful but how bad actually was it? 

 

Let’s have a look at his coaching staff, offensive line, running game and receivers each year and decide how bad his surrounding talent was each year. This is important because I’ve heard lots of people say that Bradford has been in the league for 6 years so he therefore cannot improve. But if his surrounding talent is as bad as some say, surely giving him more talent will help him reach his ceiling? I obviously don’t have the time to watch Bradford offensive line play each year so I will use Pro Football Focus‘ yearly offensive line rankings which can be found on their site.

 

2010 – Bradford was 354/590 (60%), 3512 yards, 18 TD & 15 INT.

 

Coaching staff – Steve Spagnuolo was his HC and Pat Shurmur was his OC. Yikes, not ideal.

 

Offensive line – Ranked 26th by PFF and 22nd in pass blocking. Not exactly a good start here during Bradford’s rookie season.

 

Running game – Steven Jackson played all 16 games, having 330 carries for 1241 yards with 6 TDs. Overall though, the Rams running game was ranked 25th in yards. So it wasn’t good.

 

Receivers – His best receiver was Danny Amendola with 689 yards and 3 TDs. That’s the most receiving yards Amendola has ever had in a season. His next best receiver was Brandon Gibson with 620 yards, he’s never gone over 700 once in his career. His TE was Daniel Fells who had 391 yards, which is a career high too for him.

 

Verdict – Awful. I mean come on, for a rookie QB to have those receivers with no running game and a poor OL. Ouch.

 

2011 – Bradford started 10 games, was 191/357 (53.5%), 2164 yards 6 TD & 6 INT.

 

Coaching staff – Steve Spagnuolo HC, Josh McDaniels was his OC.

 

Offensive line – Ranked 28th in both overall and pass blocking.

 

Running game – 23rd overall in yards again led by Steven Jackson.

 

Receivers – Brandon Lloyd was his main receiver with 683 yards, he had some great years in the league later on. He only played 10 games that year though. Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander were next with under 500 yards each. Alexander only played in 5 games though, he was on pace for over 1000 yards. Lance Kendricks was his TE.

 

Verdict – Awful. Lloyd and Alexander can play but they both missed a lot of games and his OL and running game were bad. But, I’m not sure that excuses how bad he was that year. 53% is not good enough regardless of the situation. Still the situation is just flat out bad.

 

2012 – Bradford started 16 games, was 328/551 (59.5%), 3702 yards 21 TD & 13 INT.

 

Coaching staff – Jeff Fisher HC, Brian Schottenheimer as OC. You have to feel for Bradford.

Offensive line – Ranked 26th overall and 21st in pass blocking. One day the Rams will fix their OL…

 

Running game – 19th overall in yards led by Steven Jackson, still yet to have a running game in the top half of the league.

 

Receivers – The top three receivers had between 650 and 700 yards – Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola (for only 8 games). Amendola was on pace for a good year but couldn’t stay healthy. His TE was Lance Kendricks still who had a career year with 519 yards. Can the Rams get the man some weapons?!

 

Verdict – Awful. This is getting ridiculous now, it’s just flat out bad.

 

2013 – Bradford was looking good, going 159/262 (60.7%) for 1687 yards 14 TD and 4 INT before tearing his ACL in week 7.

 

Coaching staff – Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer, still.

 

Offensive line – 13th!! The OL was finally decent, it only ranked 17th in pass blocking but still.

 

Running game – 19th overall in yards once again.

 

Receivers – Jared Cook led the team with 671 yards. No WR had over 600 yards, with Chris Givens leading the team and Tavon Austin and Austin Pettis just behind him.

 

Verdict – Bad. It’s his best team so far. But his coaching staff still suck, his running game is below average but at least his OL could block that year. Maybe that’s a major reason why he was having his best year before the injury.

 

2014 – Bradford missed the whole year after tearing his ACL again in preseason.

 

2015 – Bradford started 14 games, going 346/532 (65%) for 3725 yards, 19 TD and 14 INT.

 

Coaching staff – Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur. Not the Chip Kelly of 2013 though, the awful boring Chip Kelly (read why here)

 

Offensive line – PFF ranked the Eagles as 12th overall and 18th in pass blocking which I found generous.

 

Running game – The Eagles ranked 14th in yards which isn’t that impressive when you consider the up-tempo

approach, it was also incredibly inconsistent.

 

Receivers – By far the best he’s played with, which says a lot. Jordan Matthews had 997 yards and Zach Ertz had 853. They are the two best players he’s thrown to throughout his career. After that though the receivers were atrocious as we all know by now.

 

Verdict- Below average. It wasn’t a good offense, simply put. The offense was dull and just not very well coached. The running game wasn’t consistent and even Matthews and Ertz weren’t great all year.

 

So what can we conclude from this? I don’t know. I’m not defending Bradford or attacking Bradford. I agree that if he was a stud he would have elevated the talent around him. But not many quarterbacks can do that. 

 

After looking at this. You cannot deny that Bradford has been an incredibly unlucky quarterback in regards to the talent around him and coaching. Does that mean he’s a top 12 franchise quarterback though? No. Not yet anyway. If the Eagles do decide to keep him around though, PLEASE get the man some more weapons and a better offensive line.

The Case for Sam Bradford

The Case for Sam Bradford

3,725 yards, 19 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, 86.4 QB rating. The 2015 season totals are average at best for Sam Bradford. And when you see those pedestrian numbers, it’s hard to argue against people who think it’s best for the Eagles to move on from Bradford and select a quarterback in this year’s draft.

As the season went on and Sam Bradford got more comfortable behind a shaky offensive line, and his timing improved with a less-than-reliable wide receiving unit, Bradford looked good. Great? No. But much better than the beginning of the season, and what his stats indicated.

So why should the Eagles invest in Sam Bradford and re-sign him?

THE EYE TEST: As mentioned above, when the 2015 season started, you knew Sam Bradford wasn’t “right.” He was shaky in the pocket, timing with his receivers was off, and his accuracy was up and down. As the season progressed, especially after the bye week, you saw a completely different quarterback, and the numbers back it up.

In weeks 1-7, Sam Bradford threw 9 interceptions. In weeks 9-17, after the bye week, he threw just 4 interceptions. In weeks 1-7, Bradford had a 76% accuracy rating, according to PFF, which factors in passes on target. So if a receiver drops a ball, but the pass is accurate, the quarterback isn’t faulted. In weeks 9-17, Bradford had a 79% accuracy rating. Now, before people say “Well Bradford was Mr. Checkdown!”

In weeks 1-7, Sam Bradford had a 6.4 Yards per Attempt, which was 32nd out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. In weeks 9-17, Bradford’s Yards per Attempt jumped to 7.6, which was 11th highest in the NFL. Not only was “Mr. Checkdown” more accurate after the bye week, he also was more comfortable and willing to take shots down the field.

THE VALUE OF THE POSITION: Quarterbacks aren’t grown on trees. There are maybe 8-12 reliable quarterbacks in the NFL. Some are superstars, like Brady, Manning, and Rodgers, who can lead almost any team to the playoffs. Then there are the second tier guys who need some help. Cam Newton in 2014 looked decent at best due to an awful offensive line. The Panthers went and addressed their offensive line issues, and Newton’s more than likely the MVP of 2015 and playing for a Super Bowl.

Matt Ryan won 13, 10, and 13 games from 2010-2013. Most would have called Ryan a top 8-10 quarterback. He had time to throw, and his receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones were studs. Since 2013, Matt Ryan has averaged 6 wins per season. Offensive line issues and bad receiver play will do that to a quarterback. Sound familiar?

The quarterback position is the most scrutinized position in sports. When teams are successful, the quarterback naturally gets too much credit, when teams fail, the quarterback typically takes too much heat. In 2015, anyone who watched the Philadelphia Eagles play knew Sam Bradford was one of the least worries the team had. The offensive line was a mess, the receiving core was unreliable, and the run-game was non-existent. Not many quarterbacks in this league, even respected ones would have played well in that situation.

THE CURRENT ROSTER: The Eagles current roster build isn’t necessarily a “re-build roster.” The Eagles have a lot of solid young pieces, but the contracts they gave to players like Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray last offseason, and re-signing Brent Celek a few days ago indicate they’re trying to win now. If you draft a quarterback at pick #13, you’re essentially re-building. Instead of completely re-building and drafting a quarterback, the smart thing to do is invest in the offensive line, and build a strong defense.

Chemistry, especially at the quarterback position is crucial to build with receivers. The two seasons before 2015. Sam Bradford’s seasons ended early due to ACL injuries. Meaning his entire offseasons, were dedicated to rehabbing and getting treatment on his knees. Typically offseasons are spent by players to improve their game, workout, get stronger, throw with receivers and build chemistry. Sam Bradford didn’t have that. So when Sam Bradford started the 2015 season rusty, it was little to no surprise.

As the season went on and Bradford got better, so did his connection with Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. In the last 4 games of the season, Zach Ertz had 35 catches, 450 yards and 2 touchdowns. Over a 16 game stretch, that’s 128 catches, 1,800 yards, and 8 touchdowns.

THE CONTRACT: There is a notion that paying Sam Bradford $18-20 million per year is “overpaying.” If Sam Bradford was given a contract worth $18 million per year, that’d make him the 14th highest paid quarterback in the league. Not bad, right? Factor in the salary cap raising every year and other quarterbacks due for extensions. $18-20 million per year isn’t bad at all.

Bradford has been injury-prone in his career, so the number Eagles’ fans want to pay attention to is how much guaranteed money is offered to Bradford if he were to get a deal. I would expect a contract that is full of incentives, based on how many games he starts, wins, pro-bowls, etc. If the Eagles pay Bradford it’s not for what he’s done but what he will do.

THE CONCLUSION: Any opportunity you get to maybe land a top 12 quarterback, you have to gamble on it. Quarterbacks taken in drafts flop more than they don’t. The Eagles traded away Nick Foles AND a 2nd round pick for Bradford last offseason. He started slow, but played really well at the end of the season. Letting him walk and entering draft weekend with Mark Sanchez as your starting quarterback would be disastrous. Give Sam Bradford a 3-year deal, if a quarterback is there at pick #13, take him and ease the rookie into things.

Sam Bradford has been dealt some awful situations, give him a chance to build some camaraderie with players that have talent like Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. Give him a good offensive line and a decent run-game. Give him some stability, something he hasn’t had in his 6 years of being in the NFL.

An overlook of the Eagles’ roster and what the new coach will inherit

An overlook of the Eagles’ roster and what the new coach will inherit

JENKINSDDDTypically when a coach is fired, the perception is that the team must enter re-build mode. While the Eagles aren’t ready to go compete for a Super Bowl at this very moment, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a roster that is close to being a competitive team in the NFL.

The most important position in the NFL is quarterback. Sam Bradford started off really slow in 2015, but by year’s end, almost the entire Eagles fanbase was hoping he re-signs with the team in the offseason. Yes, Sam Bradford will want to be paid in the offseason, but more importanly he will be looking to find some stability and camaraderie. Yes, the Eagles will have a new coaching staff, but the connection Bradford built with Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz will have him thinking a return to Philadelphia will be the most comfortable move for him. Keep in mind, when in St. Louis, Sam Bradford not once had a receiver surpass 700 yards receiving. In 2015,  both Jordan Matthews (997) and Zach Ertz (853) recorded the two highest receiving totals Bradford ever had in a receivers. Expect Sam Bradford to be the quarterback for the Eagles in 2016 and beyond.

Outside of quarterback, the Eagles have some weapons on offense. The running game will feature DeMarco Murray as the lead back, and I am sure the new coaching staff will run a more conventional running game that fits Murray’s down-hill running style. Ryan Mathews will be the change of pace back, which is a perfect fit for him. Darren Sproles is 32 years old, but still productive as ever. Sproles’ cap-hit is $4.5 million in 2016, here’s to hoping the new staff wants him back.

The receiving options aren’t as bad as most think. Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews both had career best years in 2015 and are only getting better. Nelson Agholor, the 1st round pick in 2015, was hindered by injuries and lack of chemistry with Sam Bradford. One thing you see when you watch Agholor is he’s always creating separation. Expect a big leap from Agholor in year number 2.

The Eagles’ biggest need or needs on offense is offensive line. They must address both guard positions and also look into the future of left tackle. Lane Johnson may slide to left tackle when Jason Peters is done, but that then leaves a hole at right tackle. Offensive line should be priority 1,2, and 3 for the Eagles.

On defense, the Eagles have a ton of play-makers. Fletcher Cox is arguably the 2nd best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL behind only JJ Watt. If the Eagles switch to a 4-3 defense, Cox could be even more productive.

Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, and Kiko Alonso head the line backing group. Kiko clearly wasn’t himself after recovering from a torn ACL. Mychal Kendricks had his worst season since his rookie season, in 2015. After Jordan Hicks injured himself, the defense simply wasn’t the same. If Hicks Hicks comes back strong after his injury, Kiko returns to playing at the level he did his rookie season, and Kendricks plays to the ability all Eagles are familiar to seeing, the linebacking group could be a real strength for the Eagles’ defense.

The safety position, once looked at as a liability, was maybe the most reliable unit on the Eagles defense in 2015. Malcolm Jenkins was PFF’s best safety in the NFL, he led the NFL in snaps in 2015. Walter Thurmond enters the offseason as a free agent, and in his first year at safety, he had a solid season. With 71 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, 7 pass deflections (all career highs). In a league that is deprived from good safety play, the Eagles should seriously consider bringing back Walter Thurmond and keep the tandem of he and Jenkins together.

One of the most overlooked performances in 2015 was Brandon Graham’s. in the offseason, the Eagles decided to move on from Eagles Great Trent Cole and make Brandon Graham a full-time starter. In 2015, Graham had 6.5 sacks, which is a bit underwhelming when judging stats. But if you look a little further, Graham had a total of 45 QB hurries, which was the 6th most from any 3-4 outside linebacker. He was rated PFF’s 6th best outside linebacker ion the entire league.

A name that doesn’t get enough love is Bennie Logan. Late in the year, the Eagles started getting gashed by opponents in the running game, that had a lot to do with Logan being injured. Logan will never be a forceful pass-rusher, but his ability to stop the run is special. Logan had 45 “stops” in 2015, which is the number of solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure. That was the 3rd most from any defensive tackle in the NFL.

Fan favorite Connor Barwin is a good player, but as a pass-rusher, he is just so average. Out of 53 graded 3-4 outside linebackers, Connor Barwin was the 39th best in 2015, according to PFF. While he’s one of the league’s best at batting down balls, he rarely gets pressure on the quarterback. His sack numbers are more of a testament to Fletcher Cox getting so much attention.

Vinny Curry should be a priority in the offseason for the Eagles in the offseason. Regardless if the Eagles keep a 3-4 defense or switch to a 4-3. Curry is a pass-rushing specialist. In 426 snaps, Vinny Curry had 35 QB hurries. Perspective: JJ Watt had 37 QB pressures in 1,022 snaps. Yes Watt is double teamed nearly every snap, but still Curry’s 35 QB hurries were 8th most by any 3-4 defensive end. Factor in him playing half the snaps of most starters, and at a position that isn’t necessarily his best fit, SIGN THE MAN.

The big signing in the offseason was Byron Maxwell. The narrative that Maxwell had a bad season couldn’t be more wrong. After week 1, Maxwell gave up just 2 total touchdowns in coverage. Also after week 1, Maxwell gave up just 4 catches and 53 yards per game. Are those numbers worth $63 million? No. But the season Maxwell had was very, very solid.

The other corner, the rookie, Eric Rowe made a name for himself. When Nolan Carroll was injured in the Detroit Lions game, Eric Rowe struggled against Calvin Johnson. Who wouldn’t in their first outing? After that, though Eric Rowe balled out. In the 5 games Rowe started, he gave up 3 catches, 39 yards, and a 66 QB rating per game. Rowe also didn’t allow a single touchdown in the 5 games he started at corner.

The corner position shouldn’t be a position of worry for fans heading into next season, especially with JaCorey Shepherd returning from an ACL injury.

The Eagles roster is full of talent and skill players. The new coaching staff must build the trenches on both sides of the ball. This isn’t a team that won 2 games in 2015. They played awful for most of the year and still managed to win 7 games. The new coaching staff needs to find an identity and build a tough, hard-nosed team that the City of Philadelphia is accustomed to seeing.