JEFF Lurie may have fired Chip Kelly just in time. While “The Idiot Kelly” (TIK) may have given away some of our best offensive weapons, it’s not like he brought in guys like Reno Mahe to replace them. While TIK’s moves were generally downgrades, it’s not like we have empty shelves over here.
If you look around you’ll read a lot about the holes on our roster, and how big a job resurrecting the team will be.
Not so fast. We have some issues. That part is beyond debate. However, we’re far from being a long-term project. Whether or not the weapons we have can be dangerous, is more a matter of how we use what we have, and how we augment it.
First lets look at our problems:
If we re-signed every Free Agent we have, QB Sam Bradford would still scare no one, and our interior Offensive Line is dreadful. For years now, cute movement schemes have hidden C Jason Kelce‘s lack of power, but teams started to pick on him right out of the gate in 2015. So don’t expect anything better from him in 2016. Our starting Guards are decent back-ups, but on 3rd and 2 neither man is the guy you’d bet on to make a hole for your RB.
Defensively, odds are strong that we’re going back to a 4-3 front. Most of us think OLB Connor Barwin is a great guy, but anyone who knows football will tell you that he’s a bad fit for a 4-3. He isn’t strong enough for DE, and doesn’t cover well enough for OLB. For that matter OLB Brandon Graham is no better in coverage and may even actually be worse. (Graham however, can play DE.)
We have a number of holes and that 2nd round pick we gave away to get Bradford will hurt us in the Draft, but we can fix some of this before we spend the first red cent. The first thing we need to do is realize that the only way to get better is to rely on the Draft.
Where we’re strong:
We’re as deep as any team in the NFL at RB. And if you look around the NFL, no one is doubting that RB DeMarco Murray will bounce back in 2016. I can’t imagine that he’ll see 900+ yards again so long as he shares a backfield with RB Ryan Mathews, but who cares as long as they can sustains drives. We have some young talent and depth at WR, and now Jordan Matthews will get a chance to be the guy some of us know he can be. The West Coast Offense generally favors bigger wideouts and now we’ll get to see Matthews matched up on the outside.
If DE Vinny Curry comes back as a starter, we have the makings of a dangerous Defensive Line by playing Curry at LDE, Fletcher Cox at LDT, RDT Bennie Logan and RDE Graham. ILB Jordan Hicks can likely make the jump to MLB, and ILB Mychal Kendricks has already played SLB very well in his rookie year here. He also has the speed, strength and versatility to do it again. If Malcolm Jenkins stays at SS, Eric Rowe moving to FS only opens the door for CB Denzel Rice to push for the starting spot opposite Byron Maxwell. Maxwell might now get a chance to play in a scheme more like the one he was in as a Seahawk. He’ll never be a bargain, but now (in the economics of football), he might start being worth his contract. If we can re-sign Walter Thurmond (sanely), it only makes us stronger in terms of depth and when we have to play heavy Nickle or Dime. If we can’t keep him, well hey, that’s hardly the end of the world.
So don’t be too broken up over our roster. There are only tons of question marks if you lack imagination, and are stuck in TIK’s way of seeing these players.
Now here’s how you fix what’s broken:
Fixing the O-Line and QB:
Move RT Lane Johnson over to LT and slide Jason Peters inside to LG. Peters has had some trouble with quickness on the edge this year, but still is as strong as ever. Moving him inside allows him to mentor Johnson and maybe even mask some of Kelce’s power issues. Besides, it’s easier to build the right side of an O-Line than the left side, or to maintain chemistry when every other spot is new. Spend an early pick on a Guard and swoop around later for a RT.
At QB, let Bradford walk and sign Robert Griffin instead. He’ll be cheaper and has more incentive to sign here than anywhere else. Then you grab a rookie QB in the 3rd or 4th round. I’d like to take one earlier, but nobody in this draft who’s worth it will be there at 13, let alone 17th or 18th (HINT! HINT!) So don’t reach early. Better to build a line and take a chance on Griffin, or on finding a rookie gem. If Griffin gets hot early and we’re winning, keep playing him. If he falters or gets hurt, play the rookie. We’re either winning or developing our future. We win either way.
Fixing the Defense:
Resign Curry with (some financial) apologies for not starting him sooner. At WLB I roll the dice on Marcus Smith and spend a Draft pick. A guy like Smith had no business playing LOLB, yet that’s what he was tabbed to do under TIK. I make 2016 his last year here unless he proves something, but I hand him the rope to climb with or hang himself with. I don’t simply put him on the bench for a year, cut him, and leave questions out there about “what if”.
Fixing our missing second round pick and such:
Here is where you’ll need vision and imagination. Before you shoot this down, make sure you read through this part a second time. I’m trying to give you the large picture.
We pick 13th in the Draft. If we’re smart, we want to draft a Guard which we could get in the second round, except we don’t have a second round pick. Enter the Falcons picking 17th or the Colts picking 18th. Atlanta had only 19 sacks this year so they’ll be looking for another pass rusher. The Colts did better with 31 sacks, but still need a guy. We can offer both teams Connor Barwin and let them swap spots with us in round one, in exchange for their second round pick. Since the Falcons and Colts pick one after the other and need the same thing, I’d make the offer very public and put a clock on it. If they know each other is after that move up, there’s now pressure to accept our offer faster. We can’t use Barwin as a player, but we can use him to sweeten the pot. This way we get a second rounder, an open roster spot, his cap savings, and it only costs us a guy we can’t use anyway. Meanwhile they get a guy who’s still 29, proven in two places, with a contract that goes through 2019 with no crazy jumps in it. It’s a win-win. Besides, I’m sick of seeing us simply release talent that we can’t use. Why not get something for him?
QB Mark Sanchez packaged with one of our third rounders (80th) could net us the Texans 2nd rounder (53rd). He likely wouldn’t be a starter for them, but if they can’t get a decent rookie QB at #22 in round one, Sanchez is a much nicer fallback than another year of Brian Hoyer and/or Brandon Weeden.
I’d also try to get DE Taylor Hart, ILB Kiko Alonso, NT Beau Allen, and our fourth rounder (111th) out to San Fran for their third rounder (69th) and either C Marcus Martin or G Brandon Thomas, neither of which really fits what TIK does. Allen is just a guy, and Alonso’s knee has too much wear and tear for us to trust it the way TIK does.
So relax. We’re far from a dumpster fire over here. We need work, but there’s no reason that we can’t be ready to win the NFC East in 2016.