Thursday, January 31, 2013

What to do with the #4 pick?

The Eagles haven't had a top ten draft pick since 2000 when they selected Corey Simon 6th overall and haven't had a top five pick since Donovan McNabb was taken 2nd overall in the 1999 draft. Simon was a good player for the Eagles for six seasons reaching the Pro Bowl once in 2004 and helping the team get to Super Bowl XXXIX. McNabb's role on the team was even greater. Led the team to 5 NFC Championship games, won 4 NFC East Championships, Led the team to XXXIX, 6 time Pro Bowler, and holds numerous Eagles records. 

These two players were Andy Reid's first two first round picks. Now Chip Kelly is leading the team and this years first round selection will be a guy who Kelly and fans will look to make an impact for years to come. What's interesting about this years draft is, is that former Eagles head coach and newly appointed Chiefs head coach, Andy Reid holds the number one overall pick. This means that his selection will start the domino and most likely dictate who the Eagles will select at #4. 

The Chiefs need a QB, but they also have a big question mark in the LT spot. Branden Albert struggled with injuries last season and is slated to be a free agent. Luke Joeckel is considered by most to be the number one overall prospect in this years draft, and someone who can be an anchor for the O-line for years to come.  So the question is do the Chiefs stick with what they have at QB and strengthen their offensive line, or "reach" for QB Geno Smith. While Smith's draft stock has been rising as of late he still isn't considered to be in the top ten of overall prospects. 

The Eagles should prepare for the Chiefs to go either way, and regardless of how the Chiefs draft the Eagles will benefit. Despite not being ranked in the top 5 or top 10 of overall prospects, Geno Smith does possess the size, mobility, and arm strength that will translate into the NFL. That being said he has known to be inconsistent with his delivery and some question his mental toughness. Additionally he took most of his snaps out of the shotgun formation and his eye popping stats could have been a result of the high powered offense he ran. He could however just be the type of quarterback to thrive in Chip Kelly's system. 

If the Chiefs do grab him at #1 then Joeckel should fall to the Eagles at 4. Joeckel has been compared to the Browns Joe Thomas, arguable the best tackle in the game today. He possesses everything you look for in an offensive linemen and most annalists have to nitpick his performance to find weaknesses. If he does slip to number 4 then the Eagles should have a perennial Pro Bowler for years. 

On the off chance that both are gone by the time the Eagles are on the clock then the team should switch focus to the other side of the ball, as taking any of the other QB prospects would seem like a reach. With the focus on defense two guys stand out CB Dee Milliner and OLB Jarvis Jones. Both are top ranked for their position and both are aggressive football players. Milliner has a slight edge over Jones in that the Eagles secondary was horrific last season and I don't see the team keeping both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Milliner would become the teams franchise CB immediately. Some will look at taking either of these guys and point out that their are higher overall ranked guys but those prospects are all defensive linemen. While it isn't always good practice to not take the best overall player the Eagles D-line isn't the most glaring problem on defense so drafting for a need shouldn't be as much of a problem. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eagles quarterback this season

Everything is still up in the air regarding Chip Kelly's coaching staff although it seems to be that the final spot (defensive coordinator) will come from on of the teams playing in this Sunday's Super Bowl. Kelly won't officially name his staff until he has all spots filled rumors have former Brown's head coach Pat Shumur taking the offensive coordinator job, Dave Flipp coming from Miami to turn around the Eagles abysmal special teams, and supposedly Ed Donatell moving from the 49ers to defensive coordinator position. Kelly has apparently filled the coaching jobs on the offensive side of the ball (i.e. WR coach, RB coach, etc..). The defensive positions coaching staff has not had so much news. This is a good thing though because it would seem that Kelly is waiting to have his coordinator before making position coaching decisions which will allow the coordinator to have a say in who he is going to be working with. Fans should be happy as this should prevent another Washburn/Castillo disaster. 

Since the defensive coaching staff has yet to take shape and there is a debate as to whether the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and what roster moves that will entail I'll be focusing on the offensive side of the ball, specifically the biggest need for the Eagles, the quarterback.

Kelly's hiring has brought many to believe that Mike Vick will have one last season in Eagles green, stating that his speed will be a perfect fit for Kelly's high paced offense. I disagree. He has too many question marks in my mind for the paycheck he is getting this season. The ball security, the injuries, and trying to hard to make a play are just a few. It is time to move forward... without #7.

So who fills the starting spot. Kelly currently has Nick Foles who has shown that he has the skills to play in the league. The questions with Foles is can he be consistent? and will he fit into Kelly's offensive scheme? I'm not completely sold as many people shouldn't be. It was hard to tell how good Foles was last season because the team as a whole was so bad. I think moving forward he is the starter until someone else takes it from him. That being said I would be in Kelly's best interest to bring in a group of QB's this offseason and have an open competition for the starting job.

There are some intriguing names out there who could push Foles into that starting job or even make a statement in Kelly's offense and take the reigns. Some would like to see Alex Smith come over from the 49ers seeing as he has proven he can lead a team and has lost his job to Colin Kaepernick. Losing the starting gig all but guarantees that Smith will be throwing for a different franchise next season. This is only going to happen via a trade and their a plenty of teams in the league, besides the Eagles, that have question marks at their starting signal caller spot. That means a trade for Smith could be a bit pricey, which I don't like.

I see there are some cheaper alternatives who could surprise, Joe Webb and Dennis Dixon. Seems crazy at first but Webb is a taller guy who posses similar skills to Vick at a fraction of the price. So for everyone who says Vick will thrive under Kelly's system, I say Webb (a guy who beat the Eagles before) should be able to do the same, and if he fails then it's safe to say Vick wouldn't have fared all that well either.

Dixon is a guy who is on the Raven's practice squad right now and was a back up for the Steelers for three years. Before that he was an Oregon Duck and played for Chip Kelly. Could Dixon be the answer as a starter, probably not but Dixon gives Kelly a familiar face to work with which could come with positive results.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chip Kelly's hiring and a look at the D

Last time we looked at the offense and since then there has been some big news. The Eagles have hired Chip Kelly as their new head coach. It took awhile but the Eagles end up getting the guy they wanted. What does this mean? Look for player and coaches to be evaluated to see if they will buy in and/or fit into the schemes that Kelly is going to be using with his new team. I still stick with my last post about what should be done personnel wise on the offensive side of the ball. Now that Kelly is in charge however, Mike Vick may get another season in Eagles green. He should be the most looked at player by Kelly and the rest of the staff. At first glance one would think that Vick would be a perfect for for Kelly's uptempo style offense but, Vick still does have a turnover problem that needs to be corrected if Vick is not only going to run the offense but also if Kelly is going to win over fans and win as soon as much as soon as he wants to.

The offense, minus the QB position, was never really the main concern for the Eagles coming into this next season. A healthy offensive line will solve a myriad of problems for the Eagles and other than QB and maybe RG no major changes need to happen going forward. The defense on the other hand is a disaster to say the least. This had been a unit that was supposed to get us back to the hard hitting, stifling defense of the Brian Dawkins era. Bad moves on both the coaching side and with player acquisitions allowed this "dream team" to fall flat on their face and become another cautionary tale about teams trying to buy a championship. Moving forward the roster moves that the team decides to make will largely depend on the scheme that Kelly decides will be the new face of the Eagles D. For this post we'll assume Kelly won't be making sweeping scheme changes keep the current scheme.

With that lets take a look at who's on the roster, and where the team needs improvement. The first line of the defense looks to be in fairly good shape. Look for Trent Cole to bounce back and return to his old form. Opposite him Brandon Graham was penciled in as the end of season starter and showed promise, both should continue to start unless and upgrade is made over Graham. Inside on the D-line was Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox. Jenkins has been a decent starter for the Eagles since his signing and has shown he's a team player by renegotiating his contract in order to stay on the team. Cox was one of the bright spots for the defense as he impressed and made All Rookie team honors. The team also boasts a great amount of talented depth all along the line (attributed that to Andy Reid's love of D linemen), so don't expect any grand moves to be made especially with only a few intriguing names in free agency.

LBs for the Eagles have been an overlooked position for the team for quite awhile. Last year ended with Jamar Chaney, DeMeco Ryans, and Mychal Kendricks making up the starters. Ryans was a clear upgrade to the unit and brought a positive veteran leader to the defense that has been missing since the departure of Dawkins. Kendricks is another rookie who showed a lot of upside and he should continue to show improvement. Chaney has been serviceable at best. He is a good football player but not starter pedigree. An upgrade would be nice but I don't see it coming via free agency as there are bigger fish to fry then the SAM position.

Lastly, we move to the secondary which has been the biggest disappointment of all. The big free agent signing Nnamdi Asomugha and trade bait Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made up the starting CBs while Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman ended the season as the starting safeties. Two seasons ago the Eagles secondary was supposed to be the envy of the league and we'll it never panned out. Now the team is faced with some tough decisions Rodgers-Cromartie is set to become a free agent and Asomugha is set to be highly overpaid after his performance the past two seasons. Neither CB dazzled anyone this year but the argument that the two former Pro Bowlers could be coached back to an elite level of play, if the price is right. Asomugha should be requested to have his deal restructured or shown the door. At his age and recent level of play there may be teams out there who would welcome him but not at the price the Eagles are currently paying him. Rodgers-Cromartie should be able to come back for a reasonable price, however the free agent class this year is filled with guys who either haven't hit that "elite" level of play or are decent CBs but have question marks in the injury column. It looks like Rodgers-Cromartie is the best bet for the Eagles moving forward for the time being. After that look for Kelly to use a high round pick on a CB to become the cornerstone of the secondary.

 The safeties also disparately need to be addressed. Once upon a time Nate Allen was set to be the guy to fill the SS slot for years to come but since has been a let down. It is obviously that the Eagles don't have a clear guy to be a long term starter at either the FS or SS positions. This is where free agency might be able to greatly help the Eagles guys like Dashon Goldson, William Moore, or Jairus Byrd would be a huge upgrade and fix half of the Eagles last line of defense woes. It will be interesting to see what Kelly does moving forward but a rejuvenated defense would be a gift to a fan base that has sorely missed great defensive play for several years

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This offseaon....

So the possible head coaching pool has been diminished by one as Doug Marrone of Syracuse will be taking over as head coach for the Buffalo Bills. Other reports indicate that several teams have met with Oregon's Chip Kelly but there is no solid indication that he will be leaving the college ranks. From what I have heard the Eagles owner Jeffery Laurie has met with Kelly and tried selling him on the idea of coaching the Eagles and of Nick Foles or Mike Vick running his offense. Honestly, I can get behind bringing in Kelly to lead the Eagles I can't however wrap my head around keeping Vick for another season. It seems to me the best way for the team and the fans to move forward is to cut wasted money, wasted talent and rebuild. So I've decided to take a look at the Eagles roster and make a wish list of sorts as to what the front office should do this offseason. So this post we'll focus on the offense and next will be the D.

Since I already mentioned Vick lets start with the QB's. I saw we cut ties with Vick, he's a turnover machine, he makes bad decisions, is on the wrong end of his career, is injury prone, and costs way to much money. Could he restructure his contract and stay sure, but he has already said that he won't. The Eagles can cut him and not have to pay him anymore money and since we're rebuilding lets use the money to do just that. Nick Foles has shown some promise and we should move on with him. The free agent pool should be pretty bleak for QB's and I haven't heard all that much hype about the rookie class. That's not to say that a talented QB can't be found in the draft (just look at around the league this year) but unless there's a decent trade for another QB around the league to come in and help Foles develop I don't seem a much better offer. The only name I can think of to go after in a trade situation would be Alex Smith from the 49ers but again it would have to be for the right price and even then I'm not completely sold that Smith would be an upgrade.

RBs come next and right now we are stacked. Bryce Brown has shown that he has what it takes to be a very productive back and LeSean McCoy is well LeSean McCoy, nothing more needs to be said about him. We have our franchise back in McCoy and possibly a guy who can split or be better then him in Brown (if Brown can fix his fumbling). Obviously having a stable of talented backs never hurts and there could be some interesting names in free agency but there is no need to overspend for someone who will be a #2 at best. Look mid to late rounds in the draft or not even at all. The only spot there could be some interest in upgrading would be the FB spot. Andy Reid was never big on using a FB and that's part of why the Eagles don't really have much there. Peyton Hillis is a free agent this year and what with Reid taking over as head coach for the Chiefs maybe Hillis will be looked at by the Eagles new head coach.

Currently DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant make up the Eagles top three receivers  and while they are very talented we all know the passing game has had it's fair share of problems recently. All in all I think the Eagles are solid here but there could be some interesting names in free agency. However, after Vincent Jackson signed his monster contract last year many of this years free agent WRs will be looking to cash in big as well. So while I'd like to see the likes of Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe added I don't see the numbers matching up. A guy like Josh Cribbs could be an interesting addition as he isn't an elite receiver so he wouldn't be able to command elite money in that regard but he is one of the best returners in the game and would be an immediate upgrade to our special teams since we haven't been using Jackson on returns. Keeping with receivers, as I look at our TEs I like Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. I again don't see the Eagles going to free agency for an upgrade. Again look for talent to try and be added through the draft.

Lastly is the offensive line. Ok good news first. We should have all of our starters back which is great because if everyone is healthy and back to normal our starting O-line should be one of the best in the league. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans will be a sight for sore eyes when they are all back on the field together again. The position in question for the Eagles is the RG spot, however, they do have some wiggle room. Herremans has shown that he can play both the offensive tackle and guard positions so he could either continue to play RT or possibly slide in to RG. This will depend on what the Eagles decided to do regarding Jake Scott and Danny Watkins. Thus far Watkins has been a bust and Scott was brought in this season to fill in for him. I don't see either being a long term solution and there are some interesting names that could be coming up in free agency. Ryan Clady of the Broncos, Brandon Albert of the Chiefs, and Andy Levitre of the Bills are just a few names who could immediately upgrade the offensive line of the Eagles. I'm not saying that any of them will get to see the light of free agency but if they are then the Eagles should pounce on one, and Herremans ability to play either position will allow everyone a starting spot.

Additionally, if the Eagles have learned anything about the offense from this past season is that the depth of the offensive line needs to be addressed ASAP! The loss of Jason Peters alone made that clear. After three other starters went down it was a disaster. The new coaching staff should evaluate the free agent market closely as we don't want another Demetrius Bell experiment, but I would rather use draft picks to grab solid offensive linemen with potential.

All in all the offensive side of the ball shouldn't be in terrible shape QB is the big question right now but moving forward with Foles should be a no brainier for a team obviously rebuilding. Secondly, address the offensive line problem by finding a suitable starter since Watkins doesn't seem to be panning out as hoped, and grab some solid depth so if and when a starter goes down we have someone who can step up and be a satisfactory fill in.

Next post it gets interesting when the defense gets examined.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

So who's the next coach?

Reportedly former Eagles head coach Andy Reid will become the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. This move in my mind make a lot of sense for Reid first off he would control the first overall pick in this years draft allowing him to start to build his new team with the exact young talent he wants. Also, the Chiefs are sending five players this year to the Pro Bowl. RB Jamsal Charles, OLB Tamba Hali, MLB Derrick Johnson, SS Eric Berry, and Punter Dustin Colquitt. Compare this to none being sent by the Eagles and it would seem that the Chiefs are already an upgrade. The Chiefs also have a large amount of talent on their roster with players like WR Dwayne Bowe, FB Peyton Hillis, RT Eric Winston, LT Branden Albert, RG Jon Asamoah, RE Glenn Dorsey, OLB Justin Houston, and CB Brandon Flowers. With all of this talent especially on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball Reid could turn this team into a contender in a short period of time. He'll have to decided if he wants to resign Bowe, Hillis, Albert, and Dorsey as they are all scheduled to be free agents this offseason although the only one I can see him letting walk would be Hillis based purely on the fact that Reid has historically has never been big on the use of FBs. Additionally, Reid brings his ability to make QBs better then they are which could make the difference for the Chiefs when it comes to Matt Cassel. He should do fine there and I wish him all the best, I'll be happy if he does go to KC if only for the fact that he wouldn't be coaching in the NFC. Farewell Andy.

So what now for the Eagles head coaching job? Reports are out that the Eagles will be interviewing Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday and it makes a lot of sense. McCoy has taken the Broncos to the playoffs in back to back seasons with two very different QBs. Last year was with Tim Tebow and this year obviously Peyton Manning. Clearly McCoy is a man who is flexible and can tailor an offense to the players on his roster rather then forcing guys to play a style they aren't suited for.

The Eagles have also made requests to interview Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong. Clearly the Falcons have got it right this season as they boast the best record in the NFC and are tied with the Broncos for best in the NFL. It seems that Jeffrey Laurie wants to get a closer look at each facet of the Falcons game and determine  which assistant coach there has the biggest hand in the teams success.

Lastly it also seems that the Eagles are also going to be taking a look at two of the biggest coaching names in the college ranks. Both Chip Kelly of Oregon and Bill O'Brien of Penn State will certainly get multiple looks from around the league to fill vacant head coaching positions.

Other then these reports not much else has surfaced as to who the favorite is or how long it will take before a decision is made. Laurie has come out and said that he wants to do his do diligence to make sure that the right guy is hired for the job and that there is no rush for him to fill the vacancy for the sake of filling it. He did however say that if they were to determine who they felt the right guy was soon that he wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger and make an offer.  That being said I think Laurie is being smart here as he was when hiring Reid. We all know how great it was to have a coach who made the Eagles a legit contender year after year and brought a winning mindset to Philadelphia for the past 14 season, well maybe not so much in the last two. However, I fully expect that Laurie is looking for his next Andy Reid. He wants a guy who will come in and change the mood of the locker room that seems to have brought the Eagles down in recent seasons and get back to the championship caliber teams that we all used to know and love.