TRAINING Camp arrived today! While most fans have been waiting to get a glimpse of the players, I’ve been dying to get a look at the systems we’ll be running. Of course we won’t get a real glimpse of the Defensive system until probably the third preseason game. Still, I’ll be looking for big changes in our coverage of opposing receivers.
I’m actually very excited about that.
Aside from that, I don’t really know what we can reasonably expect from this year’s camp. All that talk of open competition throughout the roster was bullshit from the jump; and I told you that it was, in plain and unbroken.
There are 22 starting positions between the Offense and the Defense, and the only spots truly up for grabs are LT, WR2, and maybe, maybe, MLB. Everything else has either been decided by, or confirmed by, economics.
The battle for LT between multi-year project Jordan Mailata, and 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard, should be a lot of fun to watch, as they bring two different approaches to the contest. Mailata raw size and power, and Dillard The two of them seem quietly determined to put the other guy on the bench. If iron truly sharpens iron, then the result should produce an excellent blindside protector for QB Jalen Hurts.
It’s already been said that WR Jalen Reagor would be operating mostly out of the Slot this season. Greg Ward is reliable, but lacks the speed to threaten deep; and while John Hightowerhas shown impressive wheels and an ability to uncover, his catch rate (34.5%) makes him impossible to take seriously as candidate to start.
That makes last year’s leading receiver Travis Fulgham, the odds-on favorite to be starter opposite rookie WR Devonta Smith. It needs to be said, with the amount of speed the Eagles have stockpiled at WR, especially when the back-ups are in, Jalen Hurts on a scramble drill could be lethal if he can improve his accuracy.
The MLB position is a toss-up. In our 4-3 base, that job belongs to T.J. Edwards right now. When we go to the Nickle or Dime, Edwards comes off the field. Then again so would most MLB’s. Second year man Shaun Bradley has more footspeed, but Edwards has better eyes and instincts, and he plays under more control. We’ll have to see how it plays out in Camp. Provided the job is truly even up for grabs.
Despite all the turnover this offseason, there really isn’t much to see, if you step back and view the big picture. The Eagles coaching staff doesn’t know enough about themselves as a group, to draw any definite lines in the sand about what must be done or how. This year is a lab for everybody. Both players and coaches.
Word to the wise:
This is not the most talented team in the NFL, but it does have a collection of young, explosive players on Offense. People are questioning whether those players will live up to their high ceilings. However, that question is an admission of multiple high ceilings.
The Defense has a few older players on it, but overall they are in their primes, and have been there, seen that. This is not a group that will get rattled easily. Even in games when we fall behind early.
While it would be silly to expect this team to win the NFC East this season, it would be equally as foolish to write them off. There is still a proven core of veterans who know how to motivate each other, hold themselves and each other accountable, and more importantly overcome adversity.
This team is a broad sword, not a scalpel. It’s roster is designed to either overwhelm with physical traits; or present match-up puzzles that defy classic solutions. This is not a finesse team. It’s built to be a brawler. That said, if the brawler can actually take a punch or two…the entire NFC, not just the East, could have a problem on its hands.
FOR anyone who doesn’t know this already, the LT position is the premier offensive line assignment, in football. That position is the one which protects the QB’s blindside. It’s not one that smart teams gamble with. Let me ask you: Are you okay with gambling on protecting QB Carson Wentz’s blindside?
Jason Peters was brought in after RG Brandon Brooks was lost with an Achilles tear. Peters was asked to play RG and given a 1.8M$ deal. Fans were excited. Partly because we figured that if something happened to LT Andre Dillard, or if Dillard didn’t pan out, we could always move Peters back out to LT.
Well something did happen to Dillard, and now people are acting confused over how we should deal with it. Whom shall we put out at LT? How do we protect our Franchise QB? If only we had a Hall Of Fame, perennial All-Pro caliber player, nicknamed “The Bodyguard”. This is the easiest decision to make since “and now another breath”, but here we are over-thinking it.
Some fans figure that perhaps OL Matt Pryor can take over at LT. Or even OL Jordan Mailata. No disrespect, but Pryor has played almost exclusively at RG, for a career grand total of 79 downs. Both times were in relief of Brooks. Mailata has yet to play a single down in the regular season. Again, are you okay with gambling on protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside?
LT is not a position to trifle with, and big time talent, costs big time money. In fact, if you look across the NFL, you’ll find that the highest paid offensive lineman on most teams, is generally the starting LT. Which brings me to another point.
There are fans and sportswriters irritated that Peters wants more money to move back to LT. Let’s clear this up immediately: Peters SHOULD ask for more money. The market value of a G is significantly lower than a LT. Moreover, based on their understanding of the market, the Eagles Front Office should have had the class to offer a re-worked deal, when they came to ask him to switch positions.
Look at the market for starting LT’s. None of us working stiffs will make NFL money in 2020, but we all understand the value of not allowing our employers to underpay us for good work. Look at this through that lens.
Here in 2020, the average NFL team pays out 10.3M$ on it’s LT position, as shown here. So far in 2020, the Eagles (counting Dillard) are spending 3.77M$. TOTAL. The only teams less invested at the LT position, are Jacksonville (3.72M), then Washington (2.68M), and then the giants (1.56M). Is this the kind of company we should be keeping? Is this who the Eagles are now?
The cap space is available in terms of the 21M$ that we want to roll-over into 2021’s salary cap situation. Upping Peters deal an additional 6 or 7M$ cuts into that, but again: Are you okay with gambling on protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside? That’s the issue here.
FINALLY! Not only have the Eagles signed eventual Hall of Famer Jason Peters, but they’ve FINALLY decided to move him from LT to G. I’ve been on about that potential move for YEARS now.
To finally see it take place… I- I feel so much pride right now. I now know how Ms. America felt when she got the roses, and began to make her way past all that human wreckage, as they cried real tears of pain, while giving her fake congrats. That had to feel amazing!
And yes! With this news, I feel mah-velous.
Though Peters is just signed to a one year deal, moving inside could add two, maybe three high level years to his career. Study habits, strength, technique, concept of scheme, he owns all of those as an Eagle. Where he was starting to show wear and tear, was versus speed off the edge. That and the nagging injuries resulting from overextending to compensate for it.
That’s no longer an issue, as opponents don’t get to try running around him. Now they have to wrestle with him in a phonebooth. Early word has him playing RG, to sub for RG Brandon Brookswhom we lost for the season, with a tear of his Achilles tendon.
While a right side of C Jason Kelce, RG Jason Peters, and RT Lane Johnson would be sick, this configuration won’t be the one that benefits the Eagles the most in the long run. Flipping LG Isaac Seumalo to RG and playing Peters at LG would be the most helpful alignment.
Hey, does anyone remember the day Peters CAUGHT RB Ryan Mathews, out of mid-air to give him a soft TD landing?
Playing Peters one spot over from his familiar LT post, would help him mentor new starting LT Andre Dillard. While Peters at RG would be good while he played, the wisdom that he could pass down to Dillard, could help make the young man a perennial All-Pro, for the next decade-plus.
So Peters could either be a replacement for Brooks, or an investment in Dillard’s future. Instant gratification vs the long-term, high yield payout. In the end we’ll see who gets the roses.
ANDRE Dillardis the Eagles future at LT, and the future should start this season. Still, it would be a smart move to bring back Jason Petersas a starter as well. (Note:I started this article the day before Head Coach Doug Pederson said that he’d like to have Peters back. I nearly didn’t release this, but since Doug and I have different reasons for bringing him back, I decided to voice my side.)
I’ve been saying for years now that if Peters were to move to LG, it could add Pro Bowl caliber years to his career. I’ve said that for years, and even with him being 38, if he kicks inside, his rare issues with edge speed, completely disappear. Those instances where LG Isaac Seumalo finds himself forklifted into the QB’s passing lane, would also disappear.
Moving Peters inside means we get a powerful, mountain of a man, still quick, and still able to play in space. It means a Hall of Fame caliber mentor, playing beside Dillard. It means we get a Hall of Fame caliber back-up at LT, if we need it. Imagine: A HOF caliber, back-up.
Money? Peters played for 9 million dollars last year. Some people would say that he should be paid less if he plays G, but why dick him around? Is haggling over a 3 or 4 million dollar difference, really worth risking having to see him in a Redskins jersey? Certainly not. Just “overpay” him at G, which is easy for both the team and he to agree to.
This needn’t be an exercise. Three years, 18M, 9 guaranteed, with a signing bonus of 9M. That’s a 27M cap hit, spread over three years. Build the contract with the third year being a false floor, with a $0 salary, and of course amortize the whole shebang. That breaks down as:
2020: 9M base/3M bonus (Only year with a guaranteed base salary)
2021: 9M base/3M bonus
2022: $0 base/3M bonus
This means that if we don’t bring him back in 2021, or he retires, the team is just on the (dead money) hook for the 6M in bonus money. Everybody walks away happy.
If the move adds two years to his career, then he’s ours at a rate so affordable, it’s practically stealing. If he and the team decides to do a third year, then “restructure” his deal by moving the remaining 3M of his signing bonus to his base, and give him a final restructure bonus of 12M.
At that point the new CBA will be in place, and that 12M will be like a final high-five to an All-Time Great. But what do I know? I’m not a GM. LOL
ROOKIE LT Andre Dillard was drafted knowing that he was taking a spot from a Hall of Fame caliber player. As a rookie, DE Derek Barnett split time with veteran DE Vinny Curry. QB Carson Wentz was expected to be our savior, and started Week 1 in 2016. in 2019 RB Miles Sanders was given heavy duty well before he was ready. CB Sidney Jones spent his rookie year hurt, but as soon as he was healthy he was expected to take a spot.
Imagine if JJ Arcega-Whiteside and another rookie WR were told on the first day of camp “Only one of you has a chance to make this team. We will keep the best one. The other one will likely never play another down.” After that, make the survivor wait until Week 4 or 5 to see a single down in the second quarter. That’s how you makes downs and targets count to him.
Instead, JJAW played Week 1. Week 2 he made 1 catch for 4 yards out of 4 targets. Week 3 he started and made 1 catch for 10 yards on 3 targets. You see the wasted opportunities? That’s heavy action in the first three weeks. That’s 7 targets, 2 catches and 14 yards.
Eagles coaches have a tendency to do this with draft picks. The coaches give them time on the field, instead of making them fight for it. That needs to change. There needs to be a dogfigh-
Sorry Mike. Young players should be made to compete for their opportunities. We need to pit the rookies against each other to make ‘em mean! Feed downs and starts to the winners, and as for the losers…
Because God made us MEN, that’s why
Honestly, I can’t tell you the last time the Eagles had a rookie that made me say “DAMN! That fucker is hungry!” Honestly, when was the last time you said that, or something similar about an Eagles rookie? Not “He’s talented”, but “He’s hungry”. That a guy was making the most of every snap that he got.
If you don’t work, you don’t eat. That needs to be our credo. We need to start raising our rookies that way.
EVERYTHING matters. If that’s to be believed, then why didn’t our starters play at least a series on Thursday? Don’t hand me injuries. These are football players. They aren’t fine china. They need to be ready and up to speed for opening day, and from what we saw in this first game, at least the depth on this roster looks anything but ready.
The coaching staff having so many players not even warm-up, speaks either to fear of injury, or a casual attitude towards the preseason. Neither is good for programming the mindset of rookie players. It’s hard to teach them that “everything matters” in practice, and with diet, and with study, and with training, when the staff regards some games as not mattering.
Instead, we were served up second stringers given the opportunity to impress, and push for more playing time during the season, (if not a re-order of the depth chart). However, few of those players did anything to catch an eye. There was an appalling lack of urgency and energy on their part. It didn’t really look as it much was at stake for them.
Some players showed up. TEDallas Goedertmade the most of his opportunity, looking downright uncoverable against starting level talent.
QB Nate Sudfeld looked poised and polished, even after his injury. I was confident about him when I wrote my Pre-Draft Predictionin April, and he’s been everything I said he was. Rookie LT Andre Dillard already has me thinking he should be above OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the depth chart at LT. MLB Zach Brownlooked like a seasoned pro, and LB L.J. Fort, looked like a roster must-have.
Some players who entered the game as second stringers, may have hurt their cases to make the final roster. DE Josh Sweathas yet to make his presence consistently felt. He seems incapable of stringing two good downs, back to back. LB Nate Gerry simply doesn’t the instincts for LB. The coaches want to see him as a fast, athletic LB; but really he’s a slow S, playing about 15 to 20 pounds too heavy. OL Matt Pryor is a guy I’ve been pulling for, but his mental errors are drive killers. Being a penalty magnet will have officials paying him more attention, and that alone could be enough to keep him off a roster. The fumble by RB Josh Adams held open the door for unremarkable RB Wendell Smallwood.
Many people would include WRMarken Michelas a standout, but his 75 yard TD catch was just one catch, on one attempt, of a 50-50 ball. A larger sample size is needed. Conversely, SS Johnathan Cyprien blew an assignment and helped give up a TD pass. That’s from a relatively small sample of downs, from a player who just got here, with a year’s worth of rust to knock off.
As a fan I’m hoping that the Eagles pick it up, and look sharper in this next preseason game. I have my doubts about that however. RT Lane Johnson has already been shutdown for the remainder of the preseason, due to a knee issue that he’d play through during the season. Thus, he will not log a single down before he sees Redskin OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Week One. (Pretty cool, right Carson?)
There is no push from behind and no pull from ahead, so far. If the Eagles don’t start treating things like they truly matter, the derailment of this 2019-2020 season will be an inside job. That’s the everything. That’s what we have to understand. After that, nothing else matters.
I hear you asking, “What about all the stuff that stats don’t reveal?” Well, that’s the reason for these “Four Things” articles. We introduce an idea of what needs addressing BEFORE the game, so that fans have to honestly answer questions about those things, AFTER the game. This helps to get us, and keep us, all on the same page.
1) Starters need to play a quarter: NOPE! Didn’t even dress. (NOT DONE)
2) Go deep to DJax: Again, didn’t dress, and even the sideline interview was shallow. (NOT DONE)
3) Look good running the ball:Let’s see… 16 handoffs, for 36 yards. That’s (carry the 12…) 2.25 per tote. You read that right. That’s not a typo. It was two and a motherfucking point two-five yards per carry! RB Jordan Howard (3 – 8 – 2.7 – 0 – 0) didn’t do much to signal that our run game has turned the corner. Then again, neither did anyone else. Isn’t that right, Josh “Do you want fries with that?”Adams? (NOT DONE)
4) Testing LB depth: LB Zach Brown was stout against the run and didn’t invite any passes thrown his way in coverage. That made me happy. I thought that LB L.J. Fortlooked very good out there. Especially in coverage. LB Nate Gerry overran his run fit on one play, and gave up a long run up the middle. It was shades of the 90 yard run that he surrendered to Redskins RB Adrian Peterson last season. The middle is probably the wrong spot for Gerry. S Johnathan Cyprien looked good when acting as a LB, but missed his deep S assignment, and helped give up a touchdown that at first looked like it was on Fort. The Eagles need to clearly define Cyprien’s role. (DONE)
So that brings us a Four Things score of 1 out of 4. In a lot of ways this was a wasted week, because any questions you had about the starters are still unanswered. Questions about the back-ups? Still unanswered. Maybe we’ll get some of those answers next week when we go visit QB Nick Foles downat his new digs in Jacksonville. QB Carson Wentz (if he dresses) vs Nick Foles. Should be a hot one!
On The Whole:
The thing about playing back-up exclusively in Preseason Game 4 is that there is no next game, and cutdowns are right on the back of that. There is real pressure to be had in that situation. Players reveal themselves in those moments.
Playing back-ups exclusively in the first game, takes the pressure is off, because they know they get a second audition in PsG 4. Did you see a sense of urgency out there last night? I know I sure didn’t.
I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s enthusiasm, but if the theme of this year is that everything matters, then this game should have looked as if the coaching staff took it seriously.
There were some positives however. LT Andre Dillardlooked flat out amazing for a a rookie, in his NFL debut. He was poised and cagey, despite not being physically overwhelming. DE Shareef Millercould end up as the 5th end in the rotation. He did a good job of setting the edge, and pressing the action upfield. His hand-fighting still needs work, though.
LEFT Tackle Andre Dillard! Let me just say that love the pick. Now that you’re no longer in suspense, let me do a little housekeeping. I’m doing something a little different this year. Instead of issuing multiple article covering each day, I’m just going to update this article daily. For those who see links to this through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), you will see this same article re-posted, but there will be new content on it.
NOW BACK TO THE DRAFT!
I didn’t do much homework on him initially because from all early indications, both Dillard and OT Jawan Taylor would be off the board by 17, 18 at the latest. There was no way we’d have a shot a top LT at 25. Just no way. So I didn’t do much leg work on them. (As it was, I barely got my Wish Listout on time, this year.)
Then we got to 22 and both players were still on the board. By the time the Draft started I no longer wanted a DT, since we re-signed DT Timmy Jernigan earlier in the day. So it didn’t sting in the least when DT Christian Wilkins went to Miami (which is where I thought he’d go, and so I hoped we’d trade with.) I had no idea what we’d do at 25.
What we did was trade up to 22, trading our 1st (25), one of two picks in the 4th (127), and our 6th (198). At which we took forever before pulling the trigger on a guy who looks to be a better option than OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, already.
Round 1 (22 overall):LT Andre Dillard.
At about 16 seconds into this video, Dillard steps forward into pass protection, instead of kick sliding backward. Then he does it again at 1:15. Then again at 3:03. And at 3:20. And 4:36. Then once more at 5:29. Keep in mind, these are on pure passing plays. By pure, I mean passing plays which employ no element of play-action.
He won’t be able to do that in the NFL, but when I saw it, I was IMMEDIATELY in love with the pick. (More on that in a sec.) He can get back quickly and deep. In fact (best example) at 3:47, but most of this video shows that his base technique is a shallow step back. So he’ll need a little time to make that slide feel second nature. But that could come as soon as mid-season, so don’t expect this to become a project.
The knock on him is that he isn’t a big-time run blocker, and it’s true. He really he isn’t. At least right now. He comes out high, which exposes too much of his chest. Against a smart defender, that can cause him to be used to trap his RB behind the line, stringing out a run, and giving time for the cavalry to get there. That will get fixed just by the way that O-Line coachJeff Stoutland runs the drills segment of camp.
That’s not to say that Dillard has poor instincts for the run. Quite the opposite. He understands where he has to be relative to the runner’s emergence point. In fact, (best example) at 5:06, you see him make two blocks, and create an alley for a rushing touchdown. He has the eyes and the instincts. He just needs to play in a grown-up offensive system.
A bit ago I said I fell in love, at about 16 second into this video. Really it was more like I started falling after 54 seconds, when I saw that the first step-up block wasn’t a fluke, (but this play included play-action.) However, by 1:15 (pure pass), he had me. He reminded me a little of another kick-ass LT that NEVER allowed a single sack in three years. He reminded me, of me. And that’s not a compliment that I just hand out.
With the cues I see in his game from this video and other videos (those were based on his QB), I think he’ll do great things, not just good things, at the LT position.
Round 2 (53 overall):RB Miles Sanders
Not a bad pick, but not a great one either. My guess is that he’s here to be an upgrade over RB Wendell Smallwood. Similar in body type, but with more speed and better feel for creating in traffic. There’s also no history of him being a reliable receiver.
Generally I like to get video of a player going against a tough opponent. I figure, a tough college opponent will show who a player is, when faced with a challenge. Initially, I went with Penn vs Michigan, but Sanders came up small, and seemed like he didn’t know some of his blocking assignments. So I went with a video vs a lesser opponent, to get an idea of his NFL upside.
If he gets a crack, he can hurt a defense.
Round 2 (57 overall):WR Jose Joaquin “J.J.” Arcega-Whiteside
Jump ball winner. Sort of an Alshon Jeffery-lite, in that even if he’s covered, he’s still open because he’ll win a contested ball. There’s a lot of “arm waving business” early in his routes that cuts into how fast he REALLY get into the route. That’s a shame, because at times he does a nice job with his feet to stem his routes. Fortunately that’s something that coaching may be able to clean up by the end of Training Camp.
Between recent draft picks Mack Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside, and the rumors of moving WR Nelson Agholor, it seems like the Eagles are winding up for a big WR corps, when the contracts of Jeffery and DeSean Jackson expire.
Speaking of Arcega-Whiteside, he needs a nickname. From us! JAW comes to mind, but Ron Jaworskiis already Jaws for us, and Jaws II seems weak. A&W is cute and could have a root beer tie at the stadium, if the fans drive it hard enough. Just some thoughts.
4th round (138 overall):DE Shareef Miller
Miller went few picks earlier that I had pegged him on my Wish List, but he’s not a bad pick in this spot. Not only is it nice to see a Wish Lister in here, but I have to love the fact that he’s a Philadelphia native. Here’s what I said about him in the Wish List:
Miller (6’4″ 254) does a solid job of playing “the run first” on every down. He sets and wins the edge, but doesn’t do a good job of exploiting it when he wins it. Too often he runs himself out of plays, or doesn’t bend inside when he has the Tackle on his heels. These are things that can be fixed quickly with coaching, and should have been already. (Then again PSU’s coaching staff is now infamous for letting some things go on too long.) Given that Chris Long‘s game is also “set the edge–play the run–rush the passer” Miller could be just the rotational player to fill Long’s (on-field) role.
5th Round (167 overall): QB Clayton Thorson
He is CLAYTON! Son of Thor ! Just kidding.
I’ll be damned, but watching this kid move around in the pocket, pick up short yardage and scramble, all reminded me of Carson Wentz. (Go back and check the tape.) He doesn’t have Wentz’s willingness to stick the ball in tight spaces, but that might have more to do with not having the faith, that his skill guys have the skill to make the plays.
That won’t be a problem in Philadelphia. We have all kinds of firepower here. In fact, the question is whether he’ll be able to sit in the saddle and ride such a powerful beast (our Offense). There’s a chance that it could overwhelm the young lad, as he’s never sat so tall, upon such an impressive monster as this.
If he does impress in camp, the fact are Nate Sudfeld was a 6th round pick, not the Eagles draft pick, and only has 25 NFL attempts, with no starts, and no wins on his resume. If Thorson shows some hunger, he might be able to challenge for best view of the name on Wentz’s jersey. At which point having a guy who plays like Wentz will be a heck of an insurance policy against injury.
Shit just got real.
All in all, it was a really good Draft. We had a LT, RB, and WR all fall to us. Grabbed a DE to replenish a loss that may or may not happen, and grabbed a QB who will either sharpen our current, competent back-up, or supplant him. All of those are good things.