Defensive Line facing the most pressure entering 2017

There’s no doubt Carson Wentz will be facing the pressure this season.  A lack luster second half led to some ups and downs during his rookie year.  I expect more of the same from Wentz this year.  I believe he’ll be better but there will still be growing pains.  It happens with all young QBs.  All the pressure for me falls on the defensive line.  This unit needs to be better both against the run and the pass.  Timmy Jernigan and Chris Long have been added and will surely help the depth along the line.  Going into 2016 the DL was going to reck havoc on opposing Offensive Lines.  Brandon Graham was a bright spot.  He continued to make plays but really wasn’t able to finish at the QB.  Fletcher Cox led the team in sacks but based on his contract and 15 production he didn’t live up to his or our standards.  Did Vinny Curry dress for any games during the 2016 season?  He wasn’t quite 100% dealing with an MCL sprain for part of the season but injuries are no excuse.  He was paid a lot of money and didn’t produce at all.  I can guarantee the Eagles have looked at ways to get out of his contract in the future.

As our Eagles wrap up another week of OTA’s and head towards training camp the success of this season and DL is tied together.  This Eagles defense as a whole is in transition.  At every level of the defense the Eagles have a playmaker.  By my count with age as a factor they have three individuals they can build around.  Again I mentioned age as a factor so take out the Malcom Jenkins of the world.  At 30 years old he’s not a player the Eagles can necessarily build around for years to come.  He’s a win now player.  That being said this DL can mask some of the problems in the secondary.  The Eagles will struggle against the pass this year.  They have some young DB’s they think can ultimately produce a solid tandem going back to the Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent days followed by the Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown days.  A solid, stout fundamental DL can help with pass defense.  The addition of 1st Round Pick Derek Barnett and 6th round Elijah Qualls will certainly boost the play of this unit.  By all accounts Barnett has been impressive during practice so far.  It will be fun to see what he does in pads during camp when the hitting begins.

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Eagles OTA’s with NFL News & Notes

The first thing we look for with OTA’s are the players who didn’t show up.  Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox, Donnie Jones and Marcus Smith are absent from this practice session.  Jason Peters can do what ever he wants as far as I’m concerned.  He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer and has his off season routine down pat.  He’s as solid as they come.  I actually have no idea why Jones isn’t here.  It’s not like he’s got a tough job.  He punts a couple balls here and there so we’ll see what happens with him.  He wasn’t a lock to win the punters job anyway so this surely doesn’t help him.  Cameron Johnston, the rookie Australian will give him a run for his money.  Marcus Smith should be working out with his teammates.  He’s been nothing but an absolute failure in his 3 years as a pro.  The Eagles didn’t pick up his 5th year option so he’s not a lock to be on this roster, in fact I’m sure he won’t with the additions the Eagles have made along the DL.  Maybe it’s a blessing he’s not here.  More reps for Alex McCalister who by all accounts has bulked up.

I’ll be honest and Mike Missaneli eluded to this yesterday and I agree 100%.  It pisses me off that Cox isn’t here.  Last year he signed a 6 year $100 million dollar extension and had a poor year.  He was average at best.  This team needs to cultivate leadership and this isn’t leadership.  The best players need to be here.  Peters aside, he’s earned the right not to be here but Cox hasn’t earned that as far as I’m concerned.

Carson Wentz talked to the media after the session.  I love listening to Wentz speak.  He doesn’t get to high or low.  I wish the Eagles would make him available more often.  He talked a lot about getting everyone on the same page and growing as a team.  He spoke about the trips and bonding he did over the off season with his WR’s and OL.  This plans to be a yearly trip.  In regards to play on the field the first thing he mentioned about new WR Alshon Jeffrey was his “catch radius.”

Notes from Day 1 (via Jeff McLane)

Donnel Pumphrey was returning kickoffs during the first drills of the session.

Blount was running drills with no Helmet.  Most players where helmets during the drills so this was interesting to say the least.

With Barbre out with a calf injury Seumalo got first team reps at LG.  I expect him to win that spot come September.

Mills and new Eagle Patrick Robinson were getting looks at first team CB with Douglas jumping in as well.  This is the most important position to watch during camp.  The Eagles need to find some consistency and ultimately guys who can play.

The offensive line as a whole struggled a little a bit but with some guys absent and others injured that’s not a surprise.  Lane Johnson was at LT with Peters out.

The first play of the live offense vs defense session was a completed pass to Jeffrey on a button hook.

NFL Changes

Aside from Eagles football we had some other news in the league yesterday.  The owners got together and voted on some new changes.  Everyone is talking about the new celebration rules and honestly I couldn’t care less about these rules but there are some changes.  Players will be able to use the ball as a prop, do team celebrations and snow angels.  I really care about the rules that effect the play on the field such as the 10 minute overtime change.  Usually these get a test period and can be reviewed again but the league opted for a permanent change on this.  This is a good change because it will force the players to play faster and with more urgency.  Where they would usually get 2-3 plays off in 60 seconds now they might get 3-4 with a hurry up possibility.  Only if they made this change with Donovan was still here.  The new LA stadium was leap frogged for a Super Bowl and the 2021 game will be held in Tampa.  League rules stipulate new stadiums have to be played in for 2 years before they can land the big game.  The opening of the stadium was delayed a year because of the recent weather issues in the LA area.

Source(s) picture – philadelphiaeagles.com, OTA notes – Jeff McLane

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Are the Eagles accelerating their plan?

The Eagles made a surprise signing yesterday with the addition of LeGarrette Blount.  We know they desperately needed another running back.  Blount is the downhill physical healthy back the Eagles need.  Ryan Mathews was physical and did all he could but injuries sidelined him and he was unfortunately know help.  With the signing of Blount the Eagles will eventually save $4 million by cutting Mathews.  As of now he’s still on the roster but I don’t expect him to be here once camp starts.  Blount finished the year ranked 39th in RB rankings according to Pro Football Focus with an overall grade of 68.0.  Although he ranks out of the top 32 starting backs these numbers don’t tell the story.

Blount finished 8th last year in the league in rushing with 1,161 yards on 299 carries.  He won’t see nearly that amount in this offense but he’s a weapon the Eagles haven’t had.  My question is where do the Eagles find themselves after this signing?  Have they accelerated their plan to compete?  LeGarrette Blount is 30 years old and will be 31 during the season.  They’ve made some moves this year that I would not have based on where I thought they were.  Hindsight is 20/20 because I would not have signed both Jeffrey and Smith and preferred a young WR through the draft but after Davis was taken 5th we knew that wasn’t an option.  I still think this team is 2 years away from really competing with the big boys.  The Eagles need to finish over .500 this year with meaningful games in December or Doug Pederson is in some serious trouble.  I don’t expect Dallas to be as good but they’ll still be a handful.  The Giants are much improved while the Redskins are in transition.

This offense has the potential to be very good.  Ultimately the defense, specifically the secondary will hold them back.  Teams will exploit the Eagles on the outside through the early part of the season.  The front 7 will have to get home.  That will do a great job in helping out this secondary.  That being said it will be fun to watch this team grow through the off season and regular season.  They have some pieces in place.

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Photo Credit – philadelphiaeagles.com

Draft Recap – 214th Overall Elijah Qualls

The Eagles have had some success taking interior lineman in the latter part of the draft the last few years.  Bennie Logan was taken in the 3rd round during the 2013 draft.  Beau Allen was taken in the 7th round of the same draft and now we can add Elijah Qualls to the list of late picks trying to make an impact.  Qualls played a variety of positions through out the defense line and was even shown rushing off the edge off from the linebacker position.  Qualls joins a defensive line that no doubt needed help during the 2016 season.  I expect him to make the team from a depth prospective.  Right now I believe the Eagles are thin on interior defensive lineman.

Here are Elijah Qualls’ strengths and weaknesses from NFL.com – STRENGTHS Has broad, thick hips. Possesses low center of gravity and plays with natural leverage. Has ability to control point of attack. Powerful upper body and can land a strong punch that sets a winning leverage point. Former high school fullback with nimble feet and surprising athleticism for his size. Has feet to overcome early reach block and work back into pursuit. Looks to pursue and run through the rib cage of a running back at impact. Two-gap reader with ability to eat space and brace up to double teams. Has ability to stuff wash-down blocks and cuts. Plays with good body control.

WEAKNESSES – Body consists of stubby legs, short arms and a very soft middle with excess weight. Can be a little sluggish off the snap against lateral movement. Will get behind early in the rep. More adept at holding ground than making plays. Feet are nimble but hips are stiff. Unable to flip around the edge as pass rusher. Need to see more plays being made against run and pass. Stays glued to blockers for too long. Game lacks consistency of effort and production. Scouts say he has put on bad weight and needs to improve his work ethic.

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Source(s) philadelphiaeagles.com – picture, NFL.com – scouting report.

Draft Recap – 184th Overall Nathan Gerry

Is Gerry a Safety or a Linebacker?  He’s listed as a safety but the Eagles have him listed as a linebacker.  If make’s the team he will certainly provide the Eagles with depth at either position.  Everyone assumes at some point the Eagles will trade LB Mychal Kendricks.  They kept him past the March deadline so I expect him to be here.  The play of Gerry during camp and the preseason could effect Kendricks future.  He’s a developmental player who will primarily see the field on ST during the start of his career.  He will need to make an impact early if he plans to be on the week 1 roster.

“Gerry will need to make his mark on special teams to stick, but their depth is thin at the safety position.” – Mark Dulgerian

Here are the strengths and weaknesses for Gerry from NFL.com – STRENGTHS Chiseled from granite. Controlled, downhill shuffle from the box to mirror running back. Plays with advanced instincts against both run and pass. Anticipates patterns and can play ahead of receiver’s breaks. Will not hesitate to fire into the passing lane. Has soft hands with plus ball skills leading to thirteen career interceptions. Races into his run support work. Can adjust his run fits according to flow of the play. Decisive when triggering downhill from high safety position. Takes smart angles to the ball with a good feel for speed vs. space. Looks to make tackles near line of scrimmage. Played combo safety role and has experience with slot coverage.

WEAKNESSES Plays with tightness in his lower half. Linear attacker with need for excessive gear-down to redirect his weight. Restricted strider with limited play range. Missed excessive amount of tackles over last two seasons. Lacks desired agility and change of direction in tight quarters to secure shifty runners. Slow to flip hips and accelerate down the field. Lacks speed, range and length to play single-high safety on pro level. Susceptible to separation when asked to work from backpedal.

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Source(s) philadelphiaeagles.com – piture, Mark Dulgerian – Quote, NFL.com – Scouting report

Draft Recap – 166th Overall Shelton Gibson

It was reported last year DGB and Treggs were more about the night life than the playbook.  After taking a second WR in this years draft paired with the 2 they signed in FA the Eagles are sending a message.  Those 2 cats probably need to update their resume’s because they don’t have a future here.  Gibson is a burner.  He along with future draftee Mack Hollins will provide the Eagles with a deep threat they just didn’t have last year.  I believe Gibson is a better long term WR prospect than Hollins but Hollins can impact the game in more areas and might be more valuable overall but time will tell.  An AFC Scout believes he has DeSean Jackson speed.

“Forget his 40 yard dash time, Gibson has big-time vertical ability. At this point, there is little development in the rest of his game but he should be good for some “bombs away” moments early in his career.” – Mark Dulgerian

Here are Gibson’s strengths and weaknesses per NFL.com – STRENGTHS Flat. Out. Fast. Has run-by speed on the go routes and can create immediate separation over the top against cornerbacks who overestimate their acceleration. Saw 36 percent of his catches go for 25-plus yards over last two seasons. Ball skills and hand-eye coordination are substantially better down the field than on the short routes. Finds the deep throw quickly and makes necessary adjustments to ball flight to put himself in the best position to make the catch. Fear of his speed creates open, unchallenged throws underneath against spacious cushions. Athletic and not just a tight-hipped, straight line runner. Explosive leaper who can climb the ladder and extend way up over his head to snare the errant passes and bring them home. Has immediate gunner potential and can return kickoffs.

WEAKNESSES Displays focus issues with his hands when working underneath. Had a case of alligator arms over the middle against Texas after taking a punishing hit a quarter earlier. Will need to learn to run more of the route tree and sharpen his skills as a route runner in general. Made a living on nine routes, posts, slants and curls. Gets to top gear quickly creating issues with excessive steps in his gear down into his breaks. Needs to do a better job of aggressively working back to the ball and scrambling with his quarterback into a catch-friendly area of the field.

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Source(s) philadelphiaeagles.com – picture, Mark Dulgerian – quote, NFL.com – scouting report

Draft Recap – 132nd Overall Donnel Pumphrey

We all knew the Eagles were going to take a RB at some point in this draft.  I like when and where they selected him.  I’m glad they didn’t take a RB in the first round.  In my opinion the value just isn’t there in a passing league.  Pumphrey could see some time in the slot according to Daniel Jeremiah.  I’m not sure how I feel about that but we’ll see what happens.  We might see more slot time from another player they drafted after Pumphrey (more on him next blog).  Pumphrey was extremely productive during his time at San Diego State.  He and Ron Dayne are now 1 – 2 on the FBS rushing list.  As Darren Sproles enters the final year of his contract with the Eagles drafting Pumphrey could provide a seamless transition.

“For an undersized, multi-purpose scatback/returner, is there a better veteran to learn from than Darren Sproles, who happens to be entering contract year? Eagles fans may be looking at his eventual replacement in Pumphrey.” – Mark Dulgerian

Here are the strengths and weaknesses for Donnel Pumphrey per NFL.com – STRENGTHS Produced at high levels. Patient but decisive when he sees it. Accesses instant turbo burst. Rarely loses races to and around the edge. Plus vision creates ability to navigate shifting run creases like a seasoned veteran. Slaloms through traffic from side to side with seamless, tight jump cuts. Keeps tight track through the gaps, maintaining distance from defensive linemen. Able to string moves together. Razor-sharp cutbacks at challenging angles are his thing. Made a rare 90-degree cut out of a downhill run against South Alabama. Excels in outside zone but has courage to stick it between tackles. Extremely elusive in open field after catch. Used as matchup weapon out of backfield. Good route runner who creates necessary separation.

WEAKNESSES Undersized. Lacks the leg thickness and overall physical strength desired out of an NFL running back. Spirit is willing but flesh is weak. Arm tackles are able to end his journey. Willing to accelerate into defender, but doesn’t have the pop to break tackles or fall forward after contact. Quicker than fast. Will get caught from behind. Body catcher with average hands that lead to double catches. Too small to protect against NFL blitzers as third-down back.

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Source(s) philadelphiaeagles.com – picture, Mark Dulgerian – quote, nfl.com – scouting report