How the Eagles can Compete in 2016

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When the Eagles traded with the Browns to move up to select Carson Wentz, the overall feeling was a mixed. Yes, there’s excitement, to potentially land a franchise quarterback, and end the annual question of “can (insert average quarterback’s name here) do enough with the supporting cast around him to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl?” While there’s excitement around Wentz, there is also a depressing cloud hanging over Eagles’ fans head when thinking about the immediate future. What about 2016? A first round pick that will sit, and have little to no impact on the upcoming season. What’s the fun in that?

Well first off, if Carson Wentz ends up becoming the quarterback the Eagles front office believes he can become, his no impact in 2016 is absolutely worth the time. Secondly, why is it that we give prospects 3 years to judge them, but also expect impact from day one? You always hear “select best player available, it’s how good teams draft.” While true, if you’re taking best player available, and waiting 3 years to see what type of player they become, how can you be upset if the Eagles take a player they plan on red-shirting his first year?

Fact is, good teams don’t rely on rookies to come in and impact the team immediately. Bad teams do. Yes, some teams are fortunate and find gems in the middle to late rounds that impact in year one. And often times early round picks do as well. But again, good teams don’t look for instant production. Outside of Ezekiel Elliott, I don’t see a rookie in this year’s draft taking a team to the next level in terms of making an average team good, or a good team great, etc.

When looking at the Eagles heading into 2016, before the draft, the outlook on them was positive. They re-signed their own, they paid young players entering their prime in free agency, they got their quarterback for the next two years. The Eagles did everything they could to enter draft weekend with minimal glaring needs allowing them to draft players for long-term. Again, a plan that teams with disciplined front offices do. It’s easy to say you’ll take the best player available and not draft by need, but it’s harder to actually execute it.

Heading into the 2016 season, the Eagles have a chance to surprise people. Every season, there are teams that media outlets predict will make a Super Bowl run, typically teams that have big free agent signings. This year, the Giants did, so expect a lot of buzz around them. The thing that sucks about the hype is it’s due to teams signing big names at skill positions. Eagles did it in 2011, but the team struggled. Why? The trenches. The offensive line and defensive lines were atrocious. 2015 was similar for the Eagles. Eagles added guys like DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell, but the offensive line was so bad, the Eagles’ offense was terrible.

This year, the Eagles lack the sex appeal on paper. But addressing the offensive line in free agency and the draft makes the offensive line a strength on offense, which most overlook when looking at a depth chart. Below, I will highlight a few players the Eagles are going to be leaning on to play well in 2016, starting with the skill positions on offense.

Nelson Agholor:

Anyone who follows my twitter handle knows my love for Nelson Agholor is real. He has everything you want in a number one wide receiver. Natural hands, creates separation, a really good route runner, and speed. Agholor was hindered by Sam Bradford being rusty in the early parts of 2016, and when Bradford finally began to settle in, Agholor suffered a high ankle sprain. Agholor is a player I saw create separation against corners like Darrelle Revis and Desmond Trufant. When evaluating a wideout, remember, more goes into it than the box score. Sometimes a guy gets open, but the ball isn’t thrown his way. No doubt Agholor had his own issues, but I expect a big year in 2016. My man Jonny Page took a deep look into Agholor’s route running in 2015. Check it out here.

Zach Ertz:

Zach Ertz, to me, is the most important piece in this offense, outside of the quarterback. There’s no doubt in my mind that Ertz will be the focal point in Doug Pederson’s offense. Pederson having Travis Kelce in Kansas City, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich having Antonio Gates in San Diego, these guys know how to scheme, and create mismatches for versatile tight ends. While we all expected Chip Kelly to utilize Ertz to the best of his abilities, fact is he never did. We always saw flashes, but never a consistent string of games put together until the final four of 2015. Those numbers above are very impressive. Ertz should be one of the first tight ends selected in fantasy football this year.

Sam Bradford:

This is obviously assuming Sam Bradford changes his diaper and shows up for training camp, which seems likely as he literally has no other option other than to retire. Look, before Bradford started acting like a prima donna, fans were excited about what Bradford could do in Pederson’s offense. And rightfully so. He gets an offseason dedicated to getting better, and not rehabbing his knee, he’s familiar with his wide receivers in Matthews, Agholor and Ertz. Nothing’s changed. Bradford missing voluntary camp isn’t ideal, but it isn’t season changing. This is the best situation Bradford has ever been in. A career year could be on the horizon.

Eric Rowe:

The 2nd year corner ended 2015 on a positive note. Rowe flashed against talented wide receivers in Sammy Watkins and Pierre Garcon. Rowe will be asked to play a lot of man-to-man coverage in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. While Nolan Carroll is a reliable number two corner, Rowe will more than likely be asked to be the team’s number one corner. The talented front 4 of the Eagles is going to generate pressure which should help out Rowe and the back end of the defense. And again, Jonny took a dive into Eric Rowe in coverage last season. You can see it here.

Mychal Kendricks:

After a very promising 2014, Mychal Kendricks was very bad in 2015. It may have had to do with fatigue since the defense was on the field more than any other defense in the league. Whatever it was, Kendricks struggled a lot. Jim Schwartz will implement a wide-9 defense which will put more run support responsibility on the line backers. Schwartz’s scheme is down-hill as he asks the defense to attack the line of scrimmage, which fits Mychal Kendricks strengths. Less thinking, more attacking. The Eagles desperately need Kendricks to have a bounce back year in 2016.

While on paper, the Eagles don’t look like a very competitive team, them addressing the offensive line in free agency and in the draft will make that unit a strength this upcoming year. The addition of Jim Schwartz and the wide-9 is going to benefit Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry a ton. The Eagles could flirt near the top of the league in sacks in 2016. With that being said, the Eagles need their young core to play to their potential, and Sam Bradford to take control of the offense. If done, the Eagles could take the NFC East crown.

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Film Room: Isaac Seumalo

I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Isaac Seumalo was when the Eagles picked him. So watching him for this piece was the first I had ever seen of him. Considering a lot of people had never heard of him, the reaction to the pick on my timeline was actually pretty good as I think people knew how badly we needed offensive line help.

I watched the two games of Seumalo on Draft Breakdown and a couple of other YouTube clips I could find, he’s playing right guard in all the clips below. Seumalo will be competing for the left guard spot this year and if you want an in-depth look at the Eagles right guard click here to view my film piece on Brandon Brooks! How’s that for a plug?

PFF had Seumalo as one of the best pass blockers and to be honest, in the two games I watched he spent a lot more time run blocking than pass blocking in one on one situations. So I focused on his run blocking for the majority of the piece.

Anyway, let’s just get to the film. I’ll do what I normally do with my film pieces, I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarize everything I saw at the end. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely.

Let’s start with the basics, his run blocking.

I love this play. He initially creates a running lane by double teaming the defensive tackle and he shows great feet to quickly change direction and take out the linebacker which creates a huge hole. This play doesn’t just show good athleticism but it shows good spatial awareness and a smart football player which can’t be underrated.

Here’s your standard nasty Guardy McBeef block. He creates a nice lane and stops the defensive tackle from making a play on the ball carrier.

Here’s another Guardy McBeef block. I like the aggressive finish here too, he isn’t mucking around.  He doesn’t always finish blocks aggressively but he does here which is good to see.

Here’s another one of those runs where he double teams the defensive tackle then gets to the linebacker to create a hole. This is pretty impressive, I really didn’t expect to see these kind of blocks so much.

He was pretty impressive when he was asked to pull and kick out too which is good to see as he’ll be asked to do this a lot by Pederson I imagine. You can tell he’s pretty athletic, which I guess he should be considering he’s not a big guy so it would be pretty worrying if he wasn’t. Seeing as he is undersized as a guard, I expect Pederson attempt will get him pulling and blocking at the second level a lot.

Here’s another example of him pulling across, I liked this play just because of how he finished. The guy was already being blocked so it wasn’t that impressive but it’s always nice to see a lineman put a defender on the ground.

As I mentioned above, considering he’s undersized you would expect him to get to the second level quickly. Although this is true, he doesn’t always finish his blocks when he actually gets to the defender. You can see that here, where he gets to the guy but it’s a sort of weak block. He needs to be more aggressive and he gets brushed aside really easily here.

It’s a similar story here, he gets to the linebacker at the second level but he can’t really do enough to block him out of the play. Admittedly this is a hard angle to make a block at but I guess he deserves some criticism for taking the angle that he does.

Here is sadly another example of him being pretty bad in space. This is on a screen pass and I’m not quite sure what he is doing here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s bad in space. I just think he can improve a lot. He’s certainly athletic and he can definitely get to the second level and locate the defender he just needs to work on finishing his blocks and using his hands quicker to prevent the linebacker from getting off his block.

His run blocking for the most part was really good, I was impressed overall. I’m being picky here because the block is good enough on this play but sometimes I’ve noticed he lunges into blocks and this is when he can struggle to sustain the block. You can see him kind of lunge here as he’s making the block, you don’t want to see your guard end up on the floor.

I was critical of his blocking at the second level earlier but that was mainly me just pointing out some flaws. For the most part, he’s good in space and can pull and kick out well. Here’s an example of him getting to the second level and preventing the linebacker from making a play. You can see that he doesn’t really provide the dominant ‘mauler’ type blocks that we love to see in big offensive lineman. If he’s still making the play though, I can live with that. At his size he’ll never be a mauler.

To finish, I’ll show a couple of clips of him in pass coverage. I won’t show many examples because just trust me, his pass blocking is really good and I don’t want the post to be any longer! He gets a good punch here and maintains his blocks, he looks very calm and controlled here. He frequently wins early in the snap which is crucial.

He gets beat here similarly to how he did earlier, he has problems when he lunges. When he lunges he doesn’t keep his feet moving and he becomes static and because he’s undersized it’s easy for the defender to toss him aside. This is also a weird play because he doesn’t need to be so aggressive, the defense are only rushing three and he could have double teamed the defender with the center. I didn’t see many faults in his pass protection overall.

I keep ending on negatives plays with my film room pieces so let’s end on a high for a change! The defensive tackle tries to bull rush him but Seumalo anchors well and uses his hands effectively. He’s got a really good base when pass blocking, he doesn’t always initiate contact and dominate his opponent like Brandon Brooks does but he’s effective at stopping the rusher getting past him which at the end of the day is his main job.

Overall

I’m pretty impressed with Seumalo and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the day one starter at left guard. I really recommend you watch the Brandon Brooks piece again because you can see the different styles of both guards. Brooks initiates contact and simply dominates his opponent on a frequent basis which is why he just got paid a ton of money.

Seumalo isn’t like that, he’s not a mauler and he isn’t particularly flash but he gets the job done. I can see why he fell to the third round though. He has had injury problems in the past and he is undersized for a guard which means some analysts saw him better suited as a center. Also, he sometimes struggles to sustain blocks and needs to use his hands better. I think he’s good enough to play guard in the NFL though and I’m assuming he’ll attempt to put on some weight when he gets here too.

I don’t think Seumalo has the ability to ever be an all-pro at guard but I think he should be a reliable starter for a number of years. He’s very technically sound, rarely gets beat and is an intelligent player. He obviously has flaws otherwise he would have been an earlier pick but his flaws are minor and I wonder if he was overlooked because he isn’t your classic ‘mauler’ type guard that everyone loves. Some may be concerned that really big defensive tackles will be able to bull rush him back into the quarterback as he’s undersized and although that’s a legitimate concern, it didn’t happen in the games I watched.

He might not be the sexiest pick in the world but Seumalo is a good player who will hopefully be protecting Wentz for years to come. If the worst comes to the worst and he really struggles at guard, he’s a versatile backup to have and he could even push Kelce for a starting job at center in a couple of years which isn’t awful for a third round pick. I don’t envision that happening though and as long as he’s healthy he should be starting at left guard as early as this year.

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Eagles new DB Jalen Mills is a Day 3 Steal

It’s not very often that a talented early-to-mid-round prospect falls to the tail end of the 7th round. In fact, there are really only a few circumstances that would justify such a slip: either (A) the prospect suffered an injury that has teams weary of banking a more valuable pick on someone that might not see the field for the foreseeable future, or (B) said prospect has had an off-the-field incident (or incidents) that has caused his stock to drop, as most franchises are understandably skeptical of investing in a player with character concerns.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s 7th round selection, Jalen Mills, is associated with both the former and the latter. He missed a handful of games in 2015 after fracturing his fibula and tearing ligaments in his ankle during a preseason practice. Although Mills did return to finish the season, starting the final 5 games, the fairly significant injury did occur less than a year ago. Still, the promising four-year starter’s production on the field was largely overshadowed by an accusation of battery against a woman in 2014. Despite the charge being dropped as a result of his completing a pretrial diversion program (a program that required Mills to pay the victim’s medical bills, among other things), that type of baggage sticks around, especially when considering the number of domestic violence-related issues the league has encountered over the past few years.

Given these glaring red flags, drafting Mills seems like an unlikely gamble for an Eagles team that has managed to avoid off-the-field drama, right? Well, not exactly. You see, ‘Captain Culture’ himself (aka ex-Eagles coach/GM Charles Kelly) is no longer around to dictate the personality of the team. Kelly, to a fault, seemed to value a player’s propensity to follow rules and never question authority almost more than he valued a player’s talent. The selection of Jalen Mills, along with Alex McCalister and Wendell Smallwood, however, are indicative of a clear shift in the front office’s philosophy on building a winning team. Guys with warning labels plastered all over their resumes are not entirely off limits, provided both executive VP of football operations, Howie Roseman, and first-year head coach, Doug Pederson, believe they can handle themselves in a professional manner going forward.

Adding Mills, purely based on potential, is a no-brainer. What the Eagles have acquired is a versatile defensive back that has experience outside, in the slot and at safety. The 6’0”, 191 lb. former LSU Tiger is a consistent and sound tackler that finished his college career with 216 total tackles, 6 interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He should add immediate depth to an Eagles secondary that is currently comprised of two sure-starters at safety, a promising second-year outside CB and a whole lot of uncertainty. Mills will have the opportunity to compete for the primary nickel spot, along with a host of others, and as a backup to Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Ironically enough, his build reminds me of former Eagle Walter Thurmond (who, as a career slot corner showed he was more than capable of playing safety last season).

While the 2014 accusation against him is as unfortunate as it is uncomfortable, it is important to remember that there was no definitive proof of guilt. Assuming Mills is not the monster various members of the media have made him out to be, the Eagles might have just unearthed a diamond in the rough that can contribute to this team for years to come.

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The Eagles Running Back Situation

The date is March 12, 2015. DeMarco Murray has just agreed to a 5 year, 42 million dollar contract and has essentially signed on to be the Eagles’ feature running back for the next half decade. Following a burdensome 392 carry, 1,845 yard campaign, the 2014 NFL rushing champion’s arrival is coupled with the signing of another starting running back and former first round pick, Ryan Mathews. The collective thought across the organization is that, with the addition of these two pieces, the team is poised for a deep playoff run that could potentially have them competing for a Lombardi trophy in February.

While 2014 saw the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, eclipse 1,300 yards for the third time in his career, the frustration felt when the team failed to convert critical, short yardage 3rd and 4th down situations was difficult to ignore. Yes, a shaky and inconsistent offensive line was partly to blame. The fact remained however, that McCoy was often viewed as a running back that was looking for a home run on every play and, as a result, lost yards trying to make something out of nothing. His Barry Sanders-esque style of running made for memorable highlights that left fans’ jaws on the floor but former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly clearly lacked confidence in McCoy as it pertained to moving the chains when the offense needed a mere yard or two (the losses at San Francisco and Arizona come to mind).

So when Kelly jettisoned the soon-to-be 7th year running back (with a hefty cap hit nonetheless) to Buffalo for former Oregon LB Kiko Alonso, the signing of Murray seemed like a logical move at face value, right? Here was Kelly, practically stealing DeMarco from Dallas while also solving the short yardage woes that plagued them the previous season. Despite Murray’s ridiculous amount of touches in 2014, the addition of Mathews was clearly indicative of the Eagles’ intention to lighten the workload of Murray while also providing depth. The thought of a Murray/Mathews/Sproles three headed monster had both analysts and fans alike crowning the Eagles the league rushing champions before a single preseason game had even been played.

What a difference a year makes. To say DeMarco Murray was a disappointment is the understatement of the century. Not only did Murray fail to match even half of his rushing total from the previous season, he all too often looked like he was running in quicksand. There was no burst. There was no power. There appeared to be no effort. Adding insult to incompetency, Murray largely failed to embrace his new team and the city of Philadelphia as a whole – alienating players and coaches in the process. After the team’s biggest win of the season (one that saw the near-dead Eagles besting Bill Belichick and the mighty Patriots in New England), reports quickly surfaced of a conversation Murray had with owner Jeffrey Lurie on the plane ride back to Philadelphia. This “conversation”, by all accounts, consisted of Murray complaining about playing time and his role in Kelly’s offense. While Kelly had failed to capitalize on Murray’s strengths as a runner, it was painfully clear there was little left in the tank of the former All Pro.

Still, after Kelly’s abrupt firing a week before the season ended, there was a sense of slight optimism that perhaps the Eagles’ new head coach could salvage Murray, taking advantage of his skill set as a traditional down hill runner. Could Murray’s salty locker room relationship also be salvaged though? Freshly reinstated ‘General Manager’ Howie Roseman had no intention of finding out. In a brilliant front office move, Murray and his undeserving contract were shipped to Tennessee in a deal that saw the Eagles and Titans swap 4th round picks.

While ridding themselves of Murray (and his baggage) greatly benefited the team, there is now a glaring need at the running back position. Ryan Mathews, although effective when healthy, is simply too unreliable at this stage in his career. He is exactly what he was in San Diego – a quality back that cannot manage to stay on the field for a full season. Darren Sproles, despite being a consistent difference maker and fan favorite, is not the answer especially considering he’s 33 years old and might be nearing the end of his career. Kenjon Barner was a pleasant surprise in spurts last season but at 5’9 and with only 34 carries to his name, he is likely not your long term solution.

Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, there was heavy speculation that the Eagles might address this need by selecting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles’ decision last Wednesday to move up from the 8th selection to the 2nd selection (and give up a handful of significant draft picks in the process), however, left little doubt that North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz will be the player selected when the Eagles are on the clock Thursday night in Chicago. So what exactly is the RB position looking like when training camp begins this summer? It is possible that the Eagles head into the season with a Mathews/Sproles/Barner rotation but I’d consider this scenario unlikely. Although the Eagles dealt away a number of picks to Cleveland in order to move up, they still hold a respectable seven picks in this year’s draft. While Elliott will certainly be gone by the end of Day 1’s festivities, there are a number of intriguing prospects the Eagles could target on Days 2 and 3.

As far as personal preference goes, look no further than UCLA’s Paul Perkins. The 5’10, 208 lb. Junior ran a 4.54 40 and finished his final season at UCLA with 1,343 yards and 14 TDs. A pass catching threat in open space, with the ability to make multiple defenders miss, Perkins would have no trouble transitioning to a Doug Pederson offense that featured the likes of Jamaal Charles in his previous stint in Kansas City. Another potential option is Utah’s Devontae Booker. A two year starter at Utah, he finished his 2015 campaign with 1,261 rushing yards, 11 TDs and 37 receptions. Booker, like Perkins, would also provide the Eagles with immediate production and versatility at the running back position, as he possesses great vision, balance and is dangerous in open space.

If the Eagles opt to wait until Day 3 to select a running back, one name to keep an eye on is Indiana University’s Jordan Howard. If this name sounds mildly familiar, it might be because former player-turned-analyst Ike Taylor, in his infinite wisdom, mocked Howard to the Eagles at 8th OVERALL a few weeks ago. While Howard is a physically intimidating bruiser that seems to take joy in punishing opposing defenders, he most certainly is not worth a first round selection but should be available on Saturday should the Eagles want to wait to address the RB position.

Make no mistake, Carson Wentz will have (to quote Kanye West) all of the lights on him for the foreseeable future. The team did, after all, pull off a blockbuster deal to ensure they landed their savior that will, in theory, inevitably lead them to the promised land. What cannot be ignored, however, is that no matter how much the running back position is seemingly devalued as time goes on, the Eagles are in immediate need of stability at the position and will look to make up for the costly mistakes of seasons past this weekend.

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Film Room: Eric Rowe, Man Coverage

Talking about Eric Rowe’s rookie season isn’t easy. Whereas everyone would agree that Nelson Agholor had a disappointing rookie season (I wrote a film room piece about Agholor too here) a lot of Eagles fans would say Rowe had a good rookie season.

Yet when you step back and look at it, Rowe couldn’t really get on the field early on as Nolan Carroll beat him out and the Eagles didn’t want him to play in the slot. He came in against the Lions when Carroll got hurt and tried his hardest but struggled to cover Calvin Johnson (no surprise).

However, Rowe started the remainder of the season and it looked like he played really well. Stats wise, he was really impressive as this tweet shows.

I wanted to go back and watch Rowe because his stats were almost too good to be true. Also, Rowe is arguably the number 1 cornerback on the Eagles right now which is really interesting because he was only a second round pick last year. Unless Carroll got hurt last year he may not have played all season long and now he may be expected to cover number 1 receivers week in and week out.

In Schwartz’ defense, Rowe will play a good mix of man and zone coverage but I wanted to focus on Rowe’s man coverage for this article. In 2014, Schwartz had his cornerbacks play off coverage quite a lot. I would be surprised if he does that with Rowe a lot though as Rowe is better in press coverage than he is in off coverage.

I watched pretty much every snap Rowe played last year but will mainly post clips from the Bills and Redskins game as he had some really good individual battles that game. Just like the Agholor post, I can’t post clips of every play, so I’ll post examples of something that I see routinely and summarize my feelings on Rowe at the end. The majority of the post will be clips of Rowe in press coverage but I’ll put some clips of him in off coverage at the end too. Also, Rowe is playing the right cornerback position for every clip below.

The Bills game was fascinating because Rowe had to deal with Sammy Watkins 1 on 1 quite a few times and Rowe was not afraid to get up and his face and press him. Here’s the first example, Rowe wins this time without a doubt. When you’re jamming a receiver at the line of scrimmage, you’re attempting to throw the timing off the route. If you just watch Watkins and ignore Rowe, look how wide Watkins has to come inside just to get off Rowe’s press. You can see Tyrod Taylor get to the top of his drop and look at Watkins and there’s simply no way he can throw that ball as Rowe is all over him. Rowe’s technique here is very sound too, he gives Watkins a firm shove whilst staying square and he doesn’t lean in which a lot of rookie cornerbacks do. Rowe had quite a few plays like this against Watkins.

I posted this clip because I found it interesting. When you’re looking at cornerbacks, you have to consider the coverage that the defense is in. Although you could argue Rowe gets beat at the LOS here, Rowe knows that the Eagles are in cover-2 man coverage and he cannot let Watkins have an outside release. Rowe makes sure Watkins goes inside where he has safety help and there is no way Tyrod can make that throw. A corner has to play smart and know what coverage they are in and Rowe does have a good job of that here.

Covering Pierre Garcon is not an easy task for a rookie cornerback, Garcon is a savvy route runner and he can be tough to cover. Rowe had a pretty nice game against him though and this is nice coverage here. Again Rowe gets a decent jam at the line of scrimmage and when you get a jam like this it’s really difficult for the wide receiver to be able to shake you. Rowe’s technique is sound again as he keeps his balance whilst pressing and doesn’t lunge forward.

Apologies for the Fraps sign being in the way but I had to post this clip nonetheless. This is such a good example of the value of a press cornerback. It’s easy to forget sometimes how timing based NFL offenses are. When you have a cornerback who can press at the LOS and disrupt the timing it is so helpful. Rowe gets another great jam on Garcon here and he forces him really wide. Cousins releases the ball at the top of his drop but he has a very small window to fit it in as Garcon has been forced so wide. The ball is actually thrown pretty well but as you can see the timing is off and by the time Garcon has turned around the ball has just about passed him. This is down to Rowe’s great jam at the start of the route. If you look at the other side of the screen, you see Jaylen Watkins giving you a lesson in how not to press a receiver…

This is another great jam by Rowe at the LOS but it also highlights a weakness he showed on film. Rowe gets a decent jam that it could be argued he won the battle as he disrupted the timing and it took Garcon a long time to make his break. However, when Garcon does make his break, Rowe’s hips seem to be locked up and he’s pretty slow to change direction. He gets away with it this time though because his jam is very effective but I’d like him to move his feet quicker and stay on his toes after he’s jammed the receiver, he’s very flat footed here.

I’ll be honest, this clip doesn’t really show Rowe pressing. I just enjoy it because it shows how athletic he is. He looks very quick running across the middle and it’s a great tackle which pretty much stops Garcon from scoring.

Right, last clip I’ll slow of Garcon and this one is a negative one as Rowe gets beat. Rowe’s punch at the line of scrimmage is pretty weak here and Garcon doesn’t really do anything clever at the LOS but he manages to avoid Rowe’s jam. Similar to the earlier clip, Rowe’s change of direction isn’t the quickest and Garcon ends up getting quite a bit of separation and makes a nice catch. To be fair to Rowe, once you lose like that at the LOS you are going to have a hard time recovering as the receiver is in the driving seat. One issue Rowe has in press coverage that has come up a few times, sometimes he tries to jam with his wrong hand. You can see it here, when Garcon takes an inside release Rowe should be trying to get his outside hand on him. By going with his inside hand Garcon is able to swat it away and then Rowe’s in big trouble.

Rowe got beat in a similar fashion against the Giants a couple of times. You can see here Rowe doesn’t move his feet quick enough and he gives up the inside release to Hakeem Nicks. Rowe also makes the mistake here of trying to undercut the route despite being beat and he ends up almost directly behind Nicks and can’t make the tackle. I think Rowe is deliberately giving Nicks an inside release here though as he has a deep safety in the middle of the field and Kiko Alonso in a short zone too. He gets zero help here from the great Kiko Alonso though who moves like he’s made out of stone.

He gets beat here in almost the exact way he does against Garcon a couple of clips earlier. Once again he fails to jam the receiver with his outside hand which he should be doing when the receiver takes an inside release. He’s really flat footed at the start of the route too, he needs to be on the balls of his feet and not static. Once he’s been beat at the LOS, he could maybe be a little more savvy and try to grab hold of the receiver under the armpit to avoid him getting any real separation but I’m not sure he’s close enough to the receiver to do that without it being an obvious penalty.

There wasn’t many clips worth showing of Rowe in off coverage but I’ll leave you with a couple. I think you can tell Rowe is much more comfortable in press coverage and he often gives the receiver a lot of room when playing off coverage as I think he fears getting beat deep. He gives Watkins a good cushion and he’s not quick enough to accelerate forward and break the pass up. His feet seem to get stuck in the ground a little bit as he’s not on the balls of his feet. However, it’s important to give context, this was on a 2nd and 20 type play and Watkins ended up 3 yards short of the first down, whilst that’s not ideal, it’s better than being over aggressive and getting beat deep.

Here you can see him accelerate towards the ball much better and I love the way he punches the ball out of Watkins’ hand. His closing speed is much better here than it is in the previous clip which is good to see. His technique is better here than it is in the previous clip and that’s why he can explode forward, he’s leaning slightly further forward and is light on his feet.

Final clip I’m going to show. Although he isn’t in man coverage here, I found this clip slightly worrying as at times on tape he didn’t really look like he had a great deal of recovery speed. Rowe ran a 4.45 40 so he definitely has speed but here you can see John Brown pretty much run away from Rowe. However, the Eagles are playing quarters coverage and the Cardinals have called the ‘Mills’ concept which is designed to beat this type of coverage. Although it’s a very difficult route for Rowe to cover, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more speed shown. I don’t think this is down to just not being fast though, Rowe certainly is. It’s more technique based, again he’s caught flat footed like he is in a few of these clips and it makes it hard for him to really accelerate forward.

Overall

I like Eric Rowe a lot. However, he’ll probably struggle quite a bit at times next year if he’s asked to line up as the Eagles number 1 cornerback. That’s not a knock on Rowe, he’s a second round pick who started 5 games last year and only played one year as a cornerback in college. I do worry that some Eagles fans may have too high expectations for him next year and may be disappointed if he struggles at times.

I think Rowe can be a high level number 2 cornerback and maybe in the future a decent number 1 cornerback but he’ll have to improve on certain areas of his game a lot for that to happen. He’s much more comfortable in press coverage than he is in off coverage right now and I’m hoping Schwartz lets him press opposing receivers. Although I didn’t show any clips of Rowe in zone coverage, he’s pretty instinctive in zone coverage too and has decent ball skills and I think Schwartz will play a fair bit of zone next year so.

Rowe will have success against taller more physical receivers and may have some trouble covering the quicker smaller receivers who can get in and out of their breaks sharper. Rowe didn’t show great deep speed on tape but his jam was often so good that he was able to halt the receivers momentum on go routes so he rarely let the receiver get behind him and his 40 time shows he does have speed. He definitely seemed to have some issues changing direction quickly which he will have to work on a lot in the offseason.

Rowe is still relatively new to the cornerback position and his measurables show that he is a fantastic athlete and he therefore has the ability to improve on his weaknesses. His upside is sky high and although he’ll probably get beat more than he did at the end of last year, he should continue to develop into a really good cornerback. If he’s asked to cover the top guys next year, he will struggle I imagine but hey, most cornerbacks do.

You can check out my other film room pieces on Brandon Brooks and Nelson Agholor by clicking on their names! 

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Eagles Fans Must Be Patient With Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz

Let’s jump straight to it. The Eagles traded the Cleveland Browns for the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. The Eagles also received the Browns’ 4th round pick in exchange for a 1st, 3rd and 4th in 2016, a 1st in 2017, and a 2nd in 2018. It’s a hefty price, but for the Eagles, they see this as a rare opportunity to not sacrifice too much of your future and land a potential franchise quarterback.

I had someone tell me yesterday that Jared Goff has informed friends close to him that the Rams will be picking him with the 1st overall pick. So I’ll go on and assume the Eagles will take Carson Wentz, who Doug Pederson has loved since he started scouting him, according to multiple reports.

A little background on Wentz: He’s 23 years old, stands in at 6’5, 240 pounds. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s big, athletic and very competitive. He comes from North Dakota State where the level of competition was nothing like he’ll face in the NFL. Wentz is going to take some time adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Expect a lot of interceptions, lack-of-timing with receivers and happy-feet from him early on. Yes, he will be taken number two overall, but understand he is somewhat a project.

Because Wentz needs time, the Eagles picking him makes a ton of sense. Normally, a team picking in the top-five let alone, number two overall has an awfully bad roster. The Eagles don’t, though. Remember, the Eagles were originally picking 13th in the draft. Of course that isn’t great either, but a roster for a team picking 13th is much more talented with less holes than a team picking 2nd.

“Sam Bradford is our starting quarterback,” Howie Roseman said at his press conference, just minutes after the trade between the Eagles and Browns was announced.

The Eagles will not look into trading Bradford, as the Eagles plan is to start him, and let Wentz learn the NFL ropes behind Chase Daniel and Bradford. Again, a quarterback coming from North Dakota State, playing against FCS competition, having less pressure and more than a year to sit back and learn is ideal. So many great QB prospects are drafted high, and pressure is on them to turn the franchise around. Normally with bad offensive lines, piss poor defenses and awful coaching.

Wentz enters a situation where he can learn. He’s not being drafted by a team that doesn’t have talent. The Eagles have a core of players they want to build around, hence all the re-signings done in the off-season. The coaching staff the Eagles put together on the offensive side of the ball heavily favors the quarterback position. John DeFilippo, who was the Browns offensive coordinator in 2015, somehow managed to get 20 TD’s, 12 INT’s, and 4,156 yards out of Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown and Austin Davis playing quarterback. Frank Reich, the Eagles offensive coordinator came from San Diego where he was the offensive coordinator and coached Phillip Rivers. Lastly, Doug Pederson, the Head Coach of the Eagles, from the Andy Reid coaching tree, is a former quarterback who knows a thing or two about the position. Carson Wentz will benefit greatly from this staff.

Fans must go into this situation with patience. Wentz more than likely won’t see the field in 2016, and may not even in 2017. Remember, Aaron Rodgers threw 59 passes in his first three seasons after being drafted by the Packers. Finding a franchise quarterback is one of the toughest things to do in sports. 2-3 years from now, we may look back and say the Eagles didn’t give up enough for Wentz. Time will tell, but patience is needed.

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Film Room: Nelson Agholor’s Route Running

Before last years draft, there was a big discussion about whether Nelson Agholor could be an outside receiver in the NFL amongst a lot of draft analysts. I thought he could be based on what I had seen of him but others saw him as a slot receiver only. After the Eagles drafted him with the 20th pick, it was clear he was going to play on the outside and pretty much attempt to replace Maclin.

Agholor’s rookie season was essentially a failure. Watching his tape genuinely frustrates me because I hate the way Chip Kelly used him last year. He ran so many go routes and we made no effort to get him the ball in space and let him run with it.

I wanted to go back and watch his route running because I think that determines if he can be a successful outside receiver or not. I think we know by now, Agholor isn’t going to dominate cornerbacks at the catch point on the outside with great size and ball skills. If Agholor wants to be an outside receiver, he needs to create separation. He had problems with press coverage at college and I wanted to see if he improved against this.

I’ll post a few clips from games I watched and then summarise everything I saw at the end. Obviously I can’t post clips of every play, so I normally post an example of something that I see routinely. Let’s begin with the Miami game.

Something clearly stood out to me throughout this game that probably won’t surprise anyone – Agholor is much better against off coverage than he is against press coverage. Agholor lines up on the right side of the screen and although the ball doesn’t come his way, he clearly gets himself open. Agholor has extremely quick feet and it shows here, he gives a strong outside step and then quickly cuts back inside. If I’m being extra critical, I’d like him to move his head and shoulders to the outside when he plants his foot to really sell the single step to the outside.

Here’s another example of him winning against off coverage. I actually think there are quite a few weaknesses in this route but he still gets separation. I think he should sell the vertical route more and attempt to close the gap with the cornerback quicker. However, he’s blessed with extremely quick feet and once again it gets him open here. He moves his head and shoulders with his feet here which he didn’t do in the first clip and it certainly helps him get open.

If Chip wanted him to be a deep threat last year, he was probably pretty disappointed as there were too many go routes where he couldn’t create separation against off or press coverage. Agholor’s on the right side here again. He doesn’t do a good enough job selling the route inside at all and although he spins the cornerback around, he isn’t able to get past him deep. He didn’t close the gap quick enough and he made his move when the gap was too large. He certainly ran in breaking routes better than go routes against off coverage in this game.

Let’s watch him against cornerbacks in a press position now. This is an okay route. Agholor needs to be far more aggressive at the start of the route though against press. The cornerback is playing shadow technique here and not trying to jam Agholor so he needs to reduce the separation between the two of them before attempting to get by him. Really though, I just want to see more explosiveness. Is that weird? He just doesn’t look that explosive to me, I wonder if he’s focusing too much on his footwork or something because he looked pretty explosive in college.

Here’s one where he does succeed against a cornerback in a press position to an extent, sadly though Mark Sanchez was in at quarterback at this point so the throw is bad. Here you can see that quick-twitch ability that he has to change direction that gets him free, he uses moves his head and shoulders to the inside to really sell the inside break too which allows him to create a bit of separation.

I wanted to show this one Giants clip because I thought he looked more explosive this game, he’s on the right side of the formation. He looked more explosive at the end of the season actually (as you’ll see with the next couple of clips against the Redskins) which makes me wonder if he was just thinking about other things such as his footwork and timing during the season which slowed him down. There’s still faults with this route but you can see him start to gain separation as he accelerates which is good to see.

This is what Agholor should have been running all year. He’s so much better at these shorter routes than he is at deeper routes currently. Watching this makes me think he would be pretty effective in the slot actually. Watch how quick the 4 steps are before he cuts inside, his feet are so quick. I have no idea why we didn’t use him in the slot at all last year to at least try and get him the ball more.

This is another example of his quickness against the Redskins, he should have had a touchdown here but Bradford decided to completely overthrow him. Once again it’s that quick inside step that gets him free. If you watch carefully, the cornerback isn’t biting on the slant but Agholor sticks his left leg firmly in the ground like he is cutting across the middle and this totally kills the cornerback who bites hard. Right, I’ve shown some positive clips but I’m sadly going to end with some bad clips against the Cardinals.

Agholor got absolutely dominated by Patrick Peterson last year, he’s on the right side of the formation here. Now I get it, Peterson had a great year and is a fantastic cornerback and Agholor is just a rookie. However, Peterson does give you a chance, it’s not like he shuts down every receiver with ease. For the 20th pick in the draft, I would have expected Agholor to put up more of a fight than he did. In this clip you can see he doesn’t really fake inside hard enough and Peterson is able to get his hands on Agholor and slow him down. You’ll notice from all the clips I’ve posted, Agholor is really poor with his hands. When you’re facing press coverage as an outside receiver you need to attack that defender and be aggressive with him. He seems to ignore his hands when route running and believes he can beat the defender just by faking an inside step and speeding past him. You can’t beat top level cornerbacks on the outside on a consistent basis without using your hands effectively.

Here’s another one where Agholor can’t shake Peterson. There’s no real fake to the inside here, he’s attempting to speed past him but he doesn’t look explosive enough. It’s hard to see on the clip but it looks like Agholor manages to slap away Peterson’s initial jam but with right hand but he doesn’t follow that up with a move with his left hand to create separation from Peterson. After the initial slap, it would be good to see his left hand chop or rip Peterson’s hand away to prevent him having a hold of him. You’ll notice with a lot of these clips it doesn’t really look like Bradford looks at him, I don’t think he expects Agholor to win deep which against Peterson is no real surprise.

Apologies here for the Fraps sign being in the way slightly but it’s another example of a pretty poor route. His step to the outside is weak and Peterson doesn’t jump at all. I want to see more explosion when he cuts in too, he really needs to use his hands better to create separation as this is way too easy for Peterson to jam him here and cut off the timing of the route. He is sometimes slow to get out his breaks here and he has to get better at this.

Overall

I’m slightly underwhelmed by Agholor. He shows some good stuff, his breaks are very clean for the most part and he has really quick feet which he uses well at times. However, for the 20th pick in the draft he didn’t have a great year. I know he ran a quick 40 but he didn’t play to that speed. He doesn’t really look like a great deep threat and he did struggle on the outside against press coverage. These were concerns that many people had with him before he was drafted.

There’s a lot of things that Agholor needs to work on. At the moment he really doesn’t use his hands well at all against press coverage and his release off the line of scrimmage isn’t great. When you aren’t a big receiver on the outside you have to deceive the cornerback and sometimes Agholor would make a great fake inside but at other times he didn’t really sell the fake hard enough. I’m glad the Eagles have a new wide receiver coach and coaching staff as I hated the way Chip used him last season.

I think this Eagles coaching staff have their doubts about Agholor being an outside receiver and a great deep threat too. I think this because they have signed Rueben Randle who is a big body on the outside, they signed Chris Givens who gives them an outside deep threat and they have said that Jordan Matthews will see more outside looks. This makes me wonder if we’ll see more of Agholor in the slot next year.

Although that would be disappointing for a guy who was picked 20th overall, I do think Agholor could really dominate inside, especially on shorter routes. I’d like to see him run some curls and double moves too as he has such quick feet. I’m hoping that those analysts who said he would only ever be a slot receiver are wrong and I hope he bounces back next year on the outside and shows his potential. He does flash real talent at times so let’s just hope this coaching staff uses him better and gets him the ball in space whether he’s on the outside or in the slot.

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