Kendricks, Agholor and the overall feeling of the Eagles

There’s a ton of things going on regarding the Eagles as we approach opening day on September 11th, where the Eagles take on the Browns at Lincoln Financial Field. Let’s jump straight to it.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS: While addressing the media, Doug Pederson mentioned Mychal Kendricks would be playing in the 4th and final preseason game. Pederson is a new coach, so I’d let this slide if he was consistent with playing other starters. Pederson mentioned Kendricks as the only starter that would play on Thursday against the Jets. Maybe he’s just trying to get Kendricks caught up since he’s had an injury holding him out. But why is Jordan Matthews, who’s yet to play in the preseason not suiting up against the Jets as well?

I’m not guaranteeing Mychal Kendricks won’t be on the roster when the season begins in less than two weeks, but with the Eagles signing Stephen Tulloch, who Jim Schwartz highly covets, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Kendricks moved. Remember, Chip Kelly was the head of team personnel when Kendricks was given a 4-year $29 million extension, not Howie Roseman. Keep an eye on this situation.

NELSON AGHOLOR: Yes, I am the biggest Nelson Agholor advocate. I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. A part of it is because he was taken 20th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. The other reason(s) are what I have seen from him on tape. I’m not sure if Agholor is still hindered by the ankle injury that made him miss 3 games last season or what, but Agholor looks to have lost a step. Or two. He doesn’t look like the explosive player he was, coming out of USC.

Some bring up confidence with Agholor as the issue. And sure, that may play into his mental drops. And at times he does look like he’s rushing. Almost as if he’s still adjusting to NFL speed. But lack of confidence doesn’t make a player run slower. Agholor doesn’t look like the guy I was so very, very high on coming out of college last season. I still have hope he can turn it on, but man, am I losing patience. One thing that intrigues me is Pederson and the staff continuing to be so high on Agholor. Despite the struggles, he isn’t set to play against New York and looks to have the starting “X” position locked up. I’ll have a close eye on him opening day against Cleveland.

SAM BRADFORD: Yes, it’s just preseason, but Sam Bradford has looked good this preseason, especially week 3 against Indianapolis. Bradford has completed 80% of his throws. And when you watch the games, that completion percentage correlates with what you see. Bradford looks calm in the pocket, and seems to have a firm grasp of what Pederson wants to do on offense. The West Coast offense is much more complex than Chip Kelly’s. One of Bradford’s strengths is his mental approach to the game. Pederson’s offense allows Bradford to check to plays if a defense shows its cards. Excited about Sam Bradford in 2016, I expect a career year.

THE D LINE: Again, it’s just preseason, but there are things you can takeaway when watching these games. If a defensive coordinator is calling exotic blitzes while an offense has a vanilla gameplan, the defenses success should be taken with a grain of salt. But when I see the Eagles defense generating a ton of pressure and breaking down a QB’s pocket with just a 4-man rush, I pay attention. The Eagles in every preseason game have looked like the more physical team in the trenches. Good defenses control the line of scrimmage and the Eagles D line looks like it is going to cause opposing offenses fits this season. Look out.

GENERAL FEELING: I like where the Eagles are heading into 2016. The Achilles heel for the offense will be the health and play of the offensive line. So far, they’ve stayed healthy and have looked good in both the run-game and pass protection. With a clean pocket, Sam Bradford can be a really good quarterback in this league. I know people are hesitant, but get excited about this defense. They have top-8 potential. Jim Schwartz has never had a defensive front like this. I know people are down on the Eagles, but it wouldn’t shock me if they won 10 games and competed for the division. All goes back to the O line and if they can holdup. We will see.

Fly Eagles Fly.

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Feeling heading into 2016

eaglleesssThere’s a ton of things going on regarding the Eagles as we approach opening day on September 11th, where the Eagles take on the Browns at Lincoln Financial Field. Let’s jump straight to it.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS: While addressing the media, Doug Pederson mentioned Mychal Kendricks would be playing in the 4th and final preseason game. Pederson is a new coach, so I’d let this slide if he was consistent with playing other starters. Pederson mentioned Kendricks as the only starter that would play on Thursday against the Jets. Maybe he’s just trying to get Kendricks caught up since he’s had an injury holding him out. But why is Jordan Matthews, who’s yet to play in the preseason not suiting up against the Jets as well?

I’m not guaranteeing Mychal Kendricks won’t be on the roster when the season begins in less than two weeks, but with the Eagles signing Stephen Tulloch, who Jim Schwartz highly covets, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Kendricks moved. Remember, Chip Kelly was the head of team personnel when Kendricks was given a 4-year $29 million extension, not Howie Roseman. Keep an eye on this situation.

NELSON AGHOLOR: Yes, I am the biggest Nelson Agholor advocate. I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. A part of it is because he was taken 20th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. The other reason(s) are what I have seen from him on tape. I’m not sure if Agholor is still hindered by the ankle injury that made him miss 3 games last season or what, but Agholor looks to have lost a step. Or two. He doesn’t look like the explosive player he was, coming out of USC.

Some bring up confidence with Agholor as the issue. And sure, that may play into his mental drops. And at times he does look like he’s rushing. Almost as if he’s still adjusting to NFL speed. But lack of confidence doesn’t make a player run slower. Agholor doesn’t look like the guy I was so very, very high on coming out of college last season. I still have hope he can turn it on, but man, am I losing patience. One thing that intrigues me is Pederson and the staff continuing to be so high on Agholor. Despite the struggles, he isn’t set to play against New York and looks to have the starting “X” position locked up. I’ll have a close eye on him opening day against Cleveland.

SAM BRADFORD: Yes, it’s just preseason, but Sam Bradford has looked good this preseason, especially week 3 against Indianapolis. Bradford has completed 80% of his throws. And when you watch the games, that completion percentage correlates with what you see. Bradford looks calm in the pocket, and seems to have a firm grasp of what Pederson wants to do on offense. The West Coast offense is much more complex than Chip Kelly’s. One of Bradford’s strengths is his mental approach to the game. Pederson’s offense allows Bradford to check to plays if a defense shows its cards. Excited about Sam Bradford in 2016, I expect a career year.

THE D LINE: Again, it’s just preseason, but there are things you can takeaway when watching these games. If a defensive coordinator is calling exotic blitzes while an offense has a vanilla gameplan, the defenses success should be taken with a grain of salt. But when I see the Eagles defense generating a ton of pressure and breaking down a QB’s pocket with just a 4-man rush, I pay attention. The Eagles in every preseason game have looked like the more physical team in the trenches. Good defenses control the line of scrimmage and the Eagles D line looks like it is going to cause opposing offenses fits this season. Look out.

GENERAL FEELING: I like where the Eagles are heading into 2016. The Achilles heel for the offense will be the health and play of the offensive line. So far, they’ve stayed healthy and have looked good in both the run-game and pass protection. With a clean pocket, Sam Bradford can be a really good quarterback in this league. I know people are hesitant, but get excited about this defense. They have top-8 potential. Jim Schwartz has never had a defensive front like this. I know people are down on the Eagles, but it wouldn’t shock me if they won 10 games and competed for the division. All goes back to the O line and if they can holdup. We will see.

Fly Eagles Fly.

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General Feeling Heading Into 2016

eaglleesssThere’s a ton of things going on regarding the Eagles as we approach opening day on September 11th, where the Eagles take on the Browns at Lincoln Financial Field. Let’s jump straight to it.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS: While addressing the media, Doug Pederson mentioned Mychal Kendricks would be playing in the 4th and final preseason game. Pederson is a new coach, so I’d let this slide if he was consistent with playing other starters. Pederson mentioned Kendricks as the only starter that would play on Thursday against the Jets. Maybe he’s just trying to get Kendricks caught up since he’s had an injury holding him out. But why is Jordan Matthews, who’s yet to play in the preseason not suiting up against the Jets as well?

I’m not guaranteeing Mychal Kendricks won’t be on the roster when the season begins in less than two weeks, but with the Eagles signing Stephen Tulloch, who Jim Schwartz highly covets, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Kendricks moved. Remember, Chip Kelly was the head of team personnel when Kendricks was given a 4-year $29 million extension, not Howie Roseman. Keep an eye on this situation.

NELSON AGHOLOR: Yes, I am the biggest Nelson Agholor advocate. I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. A part of it is because he was taken 20th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. The other reason(s) are what I have seen from him on tape. I’m not sure if Agholor is still hindered by the ankle injury that made him miss 3 games last season or what, but Agholor looks to have lost a step. Or two. He doesn’t look like the explosive player he was, coming out of USC.

Some bring up confidence with Agholor as the issue. And sure, that may play into his mental drops. And at times he does look like he’s rushing. Almost as if he’s still adjusting to NFL speed. But lack of confidence doesn’t make a player run slower. Agholor doesn’t look like the guy I was so very, very high on coming out of college last season. I still have hope he can turn it on, but man, am I losing patience. One thing that intrigues me is Pederson and the staff continuing to be so high on Agholor. Despite the struggles, he isn’t set to play against New York and looks to have the starting “X” position locked up. I’ll have a close eye on him opening day against Cleveland.

SAM BRADFORD: Yes, it’s just preseason, but Sam Bradford has looked good this preseason, especially week 3 against Indianapolis. Bradford has completed 80% of his throws. And when you watch the games, that completion percentage correlates with what you see. Bradford looks calm in the pocket, and seems to have a firm grasp of what Pederson wants to do on offense. The West Coast offense is much more complex than Chip Kelly’s. One of Bradford’s strengths is his mental approach to the game. Pederson’s offense allows Bradford to check to plays if a defense shows its cards. Excited about Sam Bradford in 2016, I expect a career year.

THE D LINE: Again, it’s just preseason, but there are things you can takeaway when watching these games. If a defensive coordinator is calling exotic blitzes while an offense has a vanilla gameplan, the defenses success should be taken with a grain of salt. But when I see the Eagles defense generating a ton of pressure and breaking down a QB’s pocket with just a 4-man rush, I pay attention. The Eagles in every preseason game have looked like the more physical team in the trenches. Good defenses control the line of scrimmage and the Eagles D line looks like it is going to cause opposing offenses fits this season. Look out.

GENERAL FEELING: I like where the Eagles are heading into 2016. The Achilles heel for the offense will be the health and play of the offensive line. So far, they’ve stayed healthy and have looked good in both the run-game and pass protection. With a clean pocket, Sam Bradford can be a really good quarterback in this league. I know people are hesitant, but get excited about this defense. They have top-8 potential. Jim Schwartz has never had a defensive front like this. I know people are down on the Eagles, but it wouldn’t shock me if they won 10 games and competed for the division. All goes back to the O line and if they can holdup. We will see.

Fly Eagles Fly.

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Throwback Thursday: Andre “Dirty” Waters

To the casual Philadelphia Eagles fan (and most Eagles fans under the age of 25), the number 20 is synonymous with one player – Brian Dawkins. The Eagles’ 2nd round pick in 1996 went on to play 13 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons for the Birds and, depending on who you ask, is arguably the franchise’s most beloved player. But before Dawkins dawned the number and later saw it retired with his name in the Linc’s rafters, it was sported by another hard-hitting Safety that captured the hearts of fans and teammates alike. His name was Andre Waters.

There is no question that the Eagles defense of the late 80’s and early 90’s was one of the most intimidating and talented units ever assembled. In an era that embraced the physicality of the game, Philadelphia’s defense was a direct reflection of their outspoken and in-your-face Head Coach, defensive mastermind and former Super Bowl champion, Buddy Ryan. While household names such as ‘The Minister of Defense’ (Reggie White) and ‘The Ultimate Weapon’ (Randall Cunningham) were easily the most recognizable faces of the franchise, the tenacity and intensity that Andre Waters displayed for 10 seasons as an Eagle is probably the most accurate portrayal of a team that instilled fear into opponents each and every Sunday.

Born the 9th of 11 children in poverty-stricken Belle Glade, Florida, Andre Waters (like many other Belle Glade residents) never had it easy. He gravitated towards football at a young age and eventually attended Pahokee High School; a school that later produced Rickey Jackson and Anquan Boldin, among others. After a moderately successful high school football career, Waters wound up at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Despite being an All-PSAC player his senior season, the 1984 NFL Draft (which boasted a bloated 12 rounds at the time) came, went and failed to see Waters selected by any of the league’s 28 teams. Waters did, however, make enough of an impression on Philadelphia Head Coach Marion Campbell, who opted to sign him as an undrafted free agent.

Although his first two seasons in the league were largely forgettable, statistically (Waters registered 10 total tackles in this span), Buddy Ryan’s arrival in 1986 saw Waters’ role and production increase dramatically. Ryan was instantly drawn to the young Safety’s intense approach to the game and while most scouts viewed Waters as a serviceable special teams player at best, Ryan recognized Waters’ ambition and helped mold him into one of the most feared players of his generation. Andre Waters wouldn’t just hit you: he would inflict pain. Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs…no one was spared. A hit on Rams’ Quarterback, Jim Everett, essentially forced the league to implement a rule banning defenders from hitting QB’s below the waist while in the pocket. Andre “Dirty” Waters had officially arrived.

From 1986 to 1991, Waters averaged an astounding 131.5 tackles a season, with his single season, career high 156 tackles occurring in Philadelphia’s historic 1991 campaign. Even with the firing of Ryan after the 1990 season, the Eagles’ D finished first in run, pass and total defense and carved out their place in history as arguably the most balanced defense of all time. Despite this tremendously successful season under Defensive Coordinator Bud Carson, the following two seasons saw Waters’ production significantly decrease as he managed to play in only 15 total games. Years of playing as if every down were his last appeared to be finally catching up to the once-indestructible warrior. After Philadelphia failed to offer him a new contract following the 1993 season, Waters followed former coach Buddy Ryan to Arizona where he played his final two years in the league for the Cardinals.

Life after football varies for a lot of ex-players. Most retire quietly, some transition into broadcasting and others have aspirations to coach. Andre Waters strived for the latter. Waters, as a Ryan disciple and with the ability to connect and teach fellow teammates the intricacies of the 46 defense, started off coaching at smaller universities such as Morgan State University, Alabama State University and the University of South Florida with the hopes of inevitably landing a gig in the pro’s. His intended climb from the university level to the mountaintop that is the NFL, however, proved to be more difficult than anticipated. In addition to being frustrated by the lack of opportunities at the next level, Waters also began to experience difficulties remembering even the simplest of things. Over a decade of repetitive head trauma, suffered from those same hits that everyone cheered, was now aggressively affecting Andre Waters’ brain. He once confirmed that even he stopped counting the number of concussions he sustained after surpassing 15. In the wee hours of November 20, 2006, Andre Waters tragically took his own life at the young age of 44; no suicide note was left.

Waters’ brain tissue, as confirmed by a study that took place after his death, mirrored that of an 85-90 year old man with early-stages of Alzheimer’s. This is believed to be the direct result of the numerous concussions that went largely unaccounted for. The controversy surrounding football-related head trauma, and Waters’ case in particular, has been well documented in various books, articles and most recently the movie ‘Concussion’ (which features a portrayal of Waters).

Most people will say football killed him. Others will choose to focus solely on the tragedy associated with the way he passed. To me, Waters’ story is about the hard-working and humble fan-favorite that embodied the essence of the Eagles. The man that, after hours of practicing in sweltering heat, would sign autographs and take pictures with any and all fans in attendance. The man that broke down in tears while speaking at the funeral of his former Defensive Coordinator, Bud Carson. The man whose infectious smile lit up the city of Philadelphia for 10 wonderful seasons. For these reasons and the countless others that constitute his legacy, we will always remember Andre Waters.

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Film Room: Vinny Curry, Rushing the Quarterback

Curry

The worst thing about Chip Kelly running a 2-gap 3-4 scheme the past 3 years was that it meant Vinny Curry barely saw the field. In a passing league, the fact that you can have such a dominant pass rusher on the sideline for over 50% of the snaps just seems ridiculous to me.

Luckily, we didn’t trade Curry during Kelly’s tenure and he signed a long term extension before Free Agency began which I was so happy about. Curry is probably the Eagles best pass rusher and I’m incredibly excited about watching him next year in Schwartz’ scheme.

Just because the Eagles played a 3-4 the last few years, that doesn’t make Curry’s film worthless. In obvious passing downs, the Eagles frequently used a 4-3 defense last year and Curry would either line up as the defensive end or the defensive tackle with Connor Barwin playing the defensive end position.

I think Curry will be used a lot next year as the defensive tackle in obvious passing situations so that Schwartz can get Graham, Barwin, Curry and Cox on the field at once. For this film room piece, I broke down Curry as a defensive end and a defensive tackle when the Eagles played a 4-3 seeing as he’ll be playing these positions this year.

I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end like I always do. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s get to the film!

I’m going to start with clips that show Curry as the defensive end in more of a 4-3 look as this is where he will spend a lot of his playing time this year. The Eagles will use a ‘wide-9’ look obviously but that won’t be an every down thing. The first thing that stands out when watching Curry rush the quarterback is just his pure strength. He frequently wins with power like in the clip above. He keeps his legs driving and surprises the offensive tackle by just straight up bull rushing him and catching him off guard. You can see him fake the outside rush and then cut inside quickly. The offensive tackle tries to get a hand on him but Curry powers through his attempt and gets to the quarterback. It also helps when it takes 3 Lions players to stop Fletcher Cox who flat out abuses the center here.

Curry doesn’t get to the quarterback here but he shows great speed and athleticism. He gets off the line of scrimmage extremely quickly and easily beats the tackle with pure speed but the guard manages to prevent him from getting to Cam. How much value you put into a quick first step depends on your preference and how you evaluate pass rushers. Personally, I always look for a guy with a quick first step. It’s not enough to make you a great pass rusher but it is seriously helpful as shown here.

Okay, so leaving Vinny Curry one on one against a tight end is never ever going to work. Still, it’s a good clip to show because it once again shows his lightning quick first step and his ability to bend the edge. This is not a knock on Graham, but if you pause this clip half a second after the snap, Curry is already getting up field and Graham has barely moved yet. It’s not even deliberate but I swear Fletcher Cox makes an unbelievable play in so many of these clips. It’s basically a Curry/Cox film room piece, just look at Cox here. Graham gets through too, poor Tannehill.

Curry slightly overruns this play but I love how he uses his hands here. Using your hands well is absolutely critical if you are going to be an elite pass rusher. Although it’s very difficult as a pass rusher, trying to keep one arm free can be very helpful as shown here and this is a great swim move by Curry. When you’re a defensive lineman and the offensive lineman ends up on the ground, you know you’ve won that battle.

Curry can’t get to the quarterback here but it’s another good outside rush and he almost does enough to get there. Just like in the previous clips, Curry is able to stop the tackle from getting a strong punch by staying low and hiding his chest. Curry then uses his hands well, he uses his outside hand to club the offensive lineman and uses his inside hand to rip up through the offensive lineman. Curry can’t bend the edge like some of the elite outside pass rushers and it shows here where he just can’t do enough to get to the quarterback.

Once again Curry just can’t get to the quarterback here but most plays you won’t as a pass rusher. Collapsing the pocket like he is able to do here always puts pressure on the quarterback though and can force mistakes. The offensive tackle is expecting Curry to try to bend the edge here as Curry starts by rushing up field. As you can see through, Curry takes a sharp step to the inside and charges the tackle head on while staying low and trying to hide his chest. The tackle actually does a decent job and manages to get his hands on Curry’s chest but Curry still pushes him back into the quarterback and this shows off his power again.

Right, let’s move on to a few clips of Curry rushing from inside as a defensive tackle on clear passing situations. I knew Curry rushed from the inside a lot last year but I couldn’t believe he did it so much. I can understand why though, he is really good at rushing from the defensive tackle position, much better than I realized if I’m honest. Although Curry doesn’t really get anywhere here, he does look like he’s going to beat the center but is knocked over by the over guard. I think we’ll see this look a lot next year on third down too, Barwin-Curry-Cox-Graham. Good luck opposing quarterbacks on third and long!

Here Curry gets the sack with another great swim move. He keeps his chest hidden so the offensive guard can’t get a strong punch at the start which is key. Even when being doubled at the start Curry keeps his legs moving and this just shows how strong he is. Once again if you pause the clip just after the snap of the ball, most the Eagles players haven’t even got going yet and Curry has already initiated contact with the guard. This is a great example of a quick first step and a great use of hands that results in a sack.

This is another good example of great hands and a quick first step. Curry has that guard beaten by using his inside hand to club the defender and then using his outside hand to swim around him. He uses his hands so quickly here, the guard has almost no chance of getting his hands on Curry’s chest. Sadly the center ends up in his way without even really trying to block him and Curry can’t get to the quarterback although he tries his best even when falling to the ground. Still, his pressure up the middle and Barwin’s outside rush forces Eli to step to the left and this results in him in walking straight into Graham’s rush.

This is such a great play, Curry is relentless as a rusher and it’s so fun to watch. He’s literally being doubled teamed the entire play yet he never gets pushed back he just keeps his legs moving and uses his hands well to fight off the offensive lineman and not let them stop his momentum. Just look at the power he shows as he fights through both blocks, you can literally see how much he wants to get to the quarterback. It’s awesome to watch, Schwartz is going to love this guy.

In these posts I try to point out a players strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, Curry doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses when rushing the quarterback. But I guess if I had to be picky, he does rely on bull rushes a lot when lining up inside. He’s not an elite bend the edge type guy anyway but when he’s playing as a defensive tackle he tries to overpower guards a lot of the time by bull rushing them. He’s rushing the left guard here and as you can see sometimes he just won’t be able to overpower these guys so he needs to have a better counter move when he gets locked up with an offensive lineman. Here he doesn’t really use his hands and he fails to use a counter move after finding himself locked up with the lineman.

Let’s end on an awesome play, because why not? This play is kind of random, as you can see the two inside linebackers are Cox and Curry. Just look how athletic Curry is though, he bends the edge well and converts speed to power really well here. Once again he uses his hands excellently and stops the offensive lineman from getting his hands on his chest. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Curry used as a linebacker occasionally on passing downs, he looks pretty good!

Overall

To be a great pass rusher, you need to be relentless. Vinny Curry is exactly that. He rushes the quarterback every snap like his life depends on him getting to the quarterback which is exactly the mentality that you need to have. Curry is going to excel next season and the sky really is the limit for him in Schwartz’ scheme.

Curry is a pretty special pass rusher. He’s not an elite bend the edge guy but he’s a good athlete and can still bend the edge well enough but he can also win with just pure power. He has an incredible first step and also uses his hands extremely well which is a deadly combination. I saw a number of good pass rushing moves including the rip and swim move consistently and he was very good at getting low and hiding his chest to prevent offensive lineman from getting a strong initial punch on him.

Curry can beat you in a number of different ways but just like anyone he isn’t perfect. Curry wins early so often that he hasn’t really developed a strong counter move if he does lose the initial battle at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes he will rely on his first step and the bull rush move too much when lining up inside as a defensive tackle and elite guards will not let him simply overpower them. However, overall Curry is a really impressive pass rusher who will be aiming for double digit sacks next year and should get there.

Final note from me, if you like these posts feel free to follow the blog and follow me on twitter of course (@JonnyPage9) – I’ll be having more film room pieces out in the future on Lane Johnson and maybe Jordan Matthews. Also, if you want to see me breakdown anyone else tweet me or comment below and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already broke down Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe and you can see all of these by clicking here!

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Film Room: Jordan Hicks

Breaking down Jordan Hicks for this piece was a lot of fun. When I broke down the other rookies, Eric Rowe and Nelson Agholor, I posted quite a few negative plays of them. If you’ve read my work before you know I try to be very impartial and I simply breakdown what I see, there’s no point in doing this if I’m going to be biased.

It was really hard to find negative plays by Hicks though, he just didn’t make many. He didn’t play like a rookie middle linebacker at all, I barely ever saw any so called ‘rookie mistakes’ from him and he was really consistent. I wanted to go back and watch Hicks and see if he played as well as we all thought he did. I watched basically every snap of his so I have a pretty good feel for him as a player now.

I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end like I always do. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s get to the clips!

Let’s begin with a basic play that just shows his instincts and athleticism perfectly. I decided to show this angle because it shows off his athleticism so well but the other angle shows you how well he diagnoses this play better. The second he sees the guard getting up the field he recognizes it’s a screen and gets to the receiver straight away. Yes, he fails to wrap up the ball carrier and this is something I saw a few times so he will need to work on his tackling in the offseason but I still love plays like this.

Hicks is really good in coverage, he’s not just athletic but he’s very instinctive in zone coverage and he always seems to have a feel for where the quarterback wants to go with the ball as you’ll see in the next few clips. Although he could have picked this ball off, it shows how well he’s reading Brees while staying close to the receivers around him and he makes a really athletic play on the ball.

Hicks misreads this play and he occasionally does get done by play-action but he’s certainly not the only rookie linebacker to get caught out by play-action a few times. However, I like this play because once again it just shows how quick and athletic he is. The tight end certainly should catch this ball but there’s no doubt Hicks puts pressure into him dropping it. Just ignore the result of the play though and keep your eyes on Hicks the whole time. Watch how quickly he changes direction and the acceleration he shows to recover, that’s impressive.

Hicks is right in the middle of the screen here and this is another good example of his athleticism and great coverage. He knows exactly where the tight end is going even when he’s behind him and he takes away this throw completely.

This is just another awesome play, he’s the guy in the middle of the screen to the right by the way. I feel like I keep pointing out how athletic he is and how instinctive he is in zone coverage but it’s because he is! Hicks basically takes away both of the quarterback’s main two reads here. He takes away the slot receiver first on the in route but he knows that once that receiver gets past him he’s running into another defenders zone so he comes off the slot receiver and quickly recognizes that the quarterback wants to throw the ball to the outside receiver on a deeper in and he gets right in front of the throwing lane. This forces the quarterback to throw it over him and there’s basically no chance of him completing this throw. If you pause the play before the quarterback releases it, if Hicks had followed the slot receiver just a second more, the second read would have been open. This is a great example of a player knowing his coverage and showing great awareness of what’s around him.

I’ll end talking about Hicks in coverage by showing some examples of Hicks in man coverage. This is against Chris Thompson who is a good receiver out the backfield. He initially beats Hicks but Hicks knows the situation and knows his main aim is to simply not let Thompson into the end zone. After staying close to him he accelerates and makes a great tackle, leaving the Redskins two yards short of the endzone.

This is a similar example to the last play and again it just shows smart football. It’s 3rd down and 10, Hicks doesn’t need to get aggressive and try and jump the route and end up getting beat by a double move or a wheel route so he plays it safe. Still, I love the aggressiveness and acceleration you see from him the second he sees Cousins throw it.

This is just perfect coverage, Brees sensibly decides to throw it way out in front because Hicks is in a great position to intercept the ball.

This was one of my favorite plays from last year. Yes, it’s a pretty rubbish throw and not a great route but I love the way he’s always looking at the quarterback and the second the balls thrown he shows that acceleration again and picks it off.

Lastly, I’ll show a clip of Hicks getting beat by Witten in man coverage because Hicks did really struggle to cover Witten in this game. That’s no real surprise though Witten is excellent at getting open on these shorter routes and it’s hardly a shock that Hicks struggled to cover him. Overall, Hicks is excellent in zone coverage and very good in man coverage too.

Let’s move on to Hicks in the running game now. A lot of what Hicks does is just smart football, if I could describe him in one word I would describe him as intelligent. He won’t make as many ‘flash’ plays as someone like a Mychal Kendricks but he’s extremely consistent at getting the job done. Hicks has to cover 2 gaps here and if he flies straight through one, the running back has a chance at escaping through the other gap. Hicks realizes this so he slows the running back down and is able to tackle him at the line of scrimmage. This gap awareness will be crucial when Hicks plays in Jim Schwartz wide 9 next year.

Here’s a pretty simple stop by Hicks but I like this play because it shows his ability to get off blocks while keeping his eyes in the backfield. He gets some help from Bennie Logan of course, who is just a beast.

Another smart play, Hicks avoids the Saints offensive lineman and is then tempted to fly through that big gap and try to make a play behind the line of scrimmage. In the end he sensibly decides not to and makes a great tackle on the running back who only gets around two yards.

Here’s another good play going downhill, Hicks does a great job getting low in order to avoid being blocked and is still able to make a play on the runner despite having an offensive lineman trying to block him. Hicks understands angles very well in the running game, he rarely finds himself overrunning the play or running directly into an offensive lineman. Even simple plays like this show an intelligent footballer .

Let’s end with my favorite play of the year by Hicks. He starts on the right side of the screen, now watch the difference between him and DeMeco. DeMeco can’t shed the block and ends up getting no where despite the runner going to his side. Hicks shows great athleticism and awareness to shed the first block and send the Cowboys offensive lineman falling to the turf. He keeps going and shows fantastic speed to make it all the way outside and then lays a big hit. This is the very definition of a sideline to sideline play by a linebacker.

Overall

I think Jordan Hicks is a stud. Honestly, I think I have a higher opinion of him now than I did before I wrote this piece. He is a perfect fit at linebacker for the modern day NFL and he is a true 3-down linebacker. Those guys aren’t easy to find. He’s very good both in coverage and downhill against the run too. His zone coverage particularly impressed me, he just looks so natural in coverage which is where so many inside linebackers struggle.

I don’t have any concerns about Hicks playing in Schwartz’ defensive scheme at all. The MLB in a wide 9 has to do a lot but I think Hicks can do it all. Hicks shows great gap awareness and this is something that will be crucial in Schwartz’ wide 9 scheme. Hicks is a true sideline to sideline linebacker and he also has the coverage ability to play the deep middle in a Tampa 2 which I expect Schwartz to use occasionally.

Hicks is incredibly instinctive and smart, he rarely takes a false step or overruns a play as he understands angles in the running game well which is really impressive considering he was a rookie. However, he isn’t perfect. His biggest weakness is sadly with injuries. Hicks missed a lot of time last year and also had injuries in college which was one reason why he fell to the 3rd round. On top of that, Hicks can’t rush the quarterback like someone like Mychal Kendricks can and Hicks did miss a few tackles too.

Hicks can learn to rush the passer better but in Schwartz’ scheme he may not blitz much anyway, I’m sure he can improve his tackling too which wasn’t bad but he did miss a few. I’m not concerned about Hicks’ weaknesses, the only one that genuinely worries me is his history with injuries. Fingers crossed that Hicks can stay healthy next year because I really think he will flourish as the MLB in Jim Schwartz’ defence.

Just to end on a quick note from me, if you like these posts feel free to follow the blog and follow me on twitter of course (@JonnyPage9) – I’ll be having more film room pieces out in the future on Vinny Curry and Lane Johnson. Also, if you want to see me breakdown anyone else tweet me or comment below and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already broke down Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe and you can see all of these by clicking here! I appreciate the feedback for these posts too as they take a bit of time to do but it’s good to go back and watch these younger guys.

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Introducing Joe Douglas


Joe Douglas is no stranger to success. Spending 15 years under genius GM Ozzie Newsome’s watchful eye in Baltimore, Douglas was awarded the opportunity to learn from the best in the business. His career began as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2000, the same year the Ravens won their first Super Bowl. Hard Knocks enthusiasts might even recall watching Douglas take on the difficult task of informing players that they were going to be cut by the team.

By 2003, he had been allocated the responsibility of scouting in the Northeast area; a position he held for five seasons. After transitioning to the East Coast (Douglas played a major role in the Ravens’ selection of franchise quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP, Joe Flacco) in 2008 and Southeast region from 2009 through 2011, Douglas was named the team’s National Scout in 2012. As a National Scout, some of his responsibilities included coordinating the signing of undrafted free agents and overseeing the evaluation of potential prospects across the nation.

Considering Baltimore’s penchant for front office stability in an unforgiving and impatient NFL world, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Douglas accepted a position to become the College Scouting Director for the Chicago Bears in 2015. In his one season with Chicago, Douglas’s fingerprints were all over a critically acclaimed draft that saw the Bears select OLB Leonard Floyd, G Cody Whitehair, and DT Jonathan Bullard. Still, for reasons unknown, Chicago GM Ryan Pace allowed Douglas to interview for Philadelphia’s “personnel head” opening despite his relative success in his lone season with the Bears. After an interview with the Eagles that, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was believed to be a mere formality, it looks as if Douglas will indeed be named Philadelphia’s new personnel chief.

One long-standing blemish on the Eagles de-facto General Manager Howie Roseman’s career is that he doesn’t necessarily have the best eye for talent. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better at wheeling and dealing, negotiating contracts, or landing sought after, big name free agents, but his ability to identify and evaluate perennial All Pro players has been splotchy to say the least.

While it’s likely that Roseman will retain final control over personnel, the addition and presence of Joe Douglas should not be overlooked. Throughout the league, Douglas has been regarded as a high character “football guy” with a strong ability to communicate and unify staff. One NFL personnel man even went as far as to call Douglas a future GM, per ESN’s Geoff Mosher. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has referred to him as “one of the best talent evaluators I’ve ever been around.”

So, yes, Eagles fans should be excited about this move. Joe Douglas’s resume and ringing endorsements speak for themselves. He’s proven to be a bright, young mind that continues to succeed with each rise in the ranks of NFL hierarchy. Whether or not he can co-exist with the often prickly Roseman remains to be seen but the Eagles certainly appear to have hit a home run with this hire.

UPDATE: Per Neil Stratton, Douglas’s former colleague in Baltimore, Andy Weidl, has agreed to join the Eagles as Assistant Director of Player Personnel. Daniel Jeremiah then echoed what many in the league feel about the abilities of both Douglas and Weidl.

Although there was understandable concern when the Eagles initially suspended their search for Roseman’s second-in-command, things now seem to be shaping up nicely in the city of Brotherly Love.

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