Football School: Three Things We Learned This Week

Jimmy Johnson. Kirby Lee/USA Today

Jimmy Johnson. Kirby Lee/USA Today

Like many of you, I am a football consumer. And one reason I like this slow period from mid-June to early August is I can catch up on things I’ve been meaning to read, watch, listen to, etc. So from time to time between now and training camp, I’ll share three items I find interesting.

1. Back in March, Peter King revealed that Chip Kelly had been using Jimmy Johnson as a sounding board this offseason. Johnson said one piece of advice he gave to Kelly after Kelly was given full personnel control was to go with players who fit his personality and his system.

The 30 For 30 short on Johnson that focused on the Herschel Walker trade provided further insight into Johnson’s mindset and perhaps what he shared with Kelly.

“I considered trading every player on our roster, everybody, even a player that I loved, Michael Irvin, who played for me at Miami,” Johnson said. “…I didn’t understand the way the NFL worked. But back then, teams didn’t trade that much. I think everybody on our football team realized that anything could happen.”

Per Johnson, the Cowboys made 51 trades in five years, more than the rest of the league put together. The biggest one, of course, was the Walker trade with the Vikings. Why did Johnson make such a bold move with that deal?

“You had to have the system for Herschel Walker for him to be productive,” he said. “I was more interested in the nifty back that could get the big run rather than the power back that was a straight line runner.” Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: What They See In Tobin, Barbre

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

During an interview session with reporters last month, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was asked about the luxury of having stability at both tackle spots and center.

“The other player that I really think is underrated is Allen Barbre,” he responded. “Allen Barbre is a really good player. We have a lot of confidence in him and his abilities.”

This has been the general sentiment shared by all parties at the NovaCare Complex – Stoutland, Chip KellyJason Peters, etc.

Barbre has started just eight games in seven NFL seasons. In two years with the Eagles, he has played 122 snaps. Yet whatever he’s doing at practice, in the weight room and at meetings has teammates and coaches convinced he’s ready for a starting role. Remember, Barbre was penciled in as a starter after the Eagles released Todd Herremans. He’ll just move to the more comfortable left side now that Evan Mathis is no longer in the mix. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On the 2014 Draft Class

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Today’s question comes from reader Jeffrey via email. He had a lot to say, so I will just paraphrase here to give you the gist:

I was reading your roster projection, and it made me think about what a colossal failure the 2014 draft has been. Other than Jordan Matthews and Beau Allen, it was total trash. Champions pick Pro Bowlers on Day 3 and don’t totally blow first-round picks. Chip Kelly’s player selection in the draft could be his undoing. Would love to hear your thoughts.

We projected roles for rookies last week, so might as well go over second-year players today. Here’s a player-by-player look at where things stand with the guys taken in the 2014 draft.

Marcus Smith, OLB – I have joked all offseason that I’m the only person on his bandwagon if anybody wants to give me company. The truth is there are not a lot of positives to point to so far. Only one first-round pick played fewer snaps than Smith last season. He jumped around from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. And this spring he’s battled a groin injury. Best-case scenario for 2015 is that Smith improves and gets on the field as the third outside linebacker behind Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Maybe he flashes pass-rushing potential, displays his versatility and competes for a starting spot in 2016.

But there are obviously no guarantees that those things happen. Smith has the measurables and appears to have the work ethic. It is just a matter of putting it all together. If he gets beaten out by Travis Long for the No. 3 OLB job, the cries of “bust” will be deafening. Read more »

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

From the pass rush to a surprising Nick Foles stat to the run game, here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

29.6 – The percentage of pass plays last year in which the Eagles’ defense generated pressure. That number ranked first in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. It’s a pretty remarkable stat for a couple different reasons. The Eagles play a two-gap 3-4 in which they focus on stopping the run on early downs. And I don’t think they have a player who would be considered a premiere edge rusher.

Connor Barwin led the team with 14.5 sacks and 21 hurries (coaches’ stats) last year. Those are great numbers, but in many cases, he’s not blowing by (or running over) offensive tackles. He’s savvy and does a great job of anticipating where the quarterback is going to end up. To his credit, Barwin knows how to finish also. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Eagles 15th In Future Rankings

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Much of what we’ve discussed in this space recently has centered on the 2015 Eagles.

But Chip Kelly made a bunch of changes this offseason that will affect the franchise long-term. So how are the Eagles set up beyond the 2015 season?

ESPN Insider put together future power rankings that focus on how organizations are looking for the next three seasons. The rankings were compiled by analyst Louis Riddick, along with writers Mike Sando and John Clayton. They used the following criteria: roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent).

So how did the Birds fare? They came in at No. 15, dropping seven spots from last offseason. Here’s the overview: Read more »

Showing Up: Inside Fletcher Cox’s Journey

Fletcher Cox Feature

Fletcher Cox, Shaddrick Cox and Malissa Cox


Shaddrick Cox always told his brother to listen, and so Fletcher tries.

When friends and family explain to him that things will get better, that the good days will outnumber the bad, that he should focus on the happy times he had with Shaddrick, Cox pays attention.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

“Losing my brother had to be one of the hardest things that I’ve faced as a young man,” Cox said. “Everybody says it’ll get better. There’s days where I don’t think it’ll get better. Some days I may believe that. But some days I’m like, ‘This’ll never get better.’ ”

On Jan.5 of this year, Shaddrick was in the process of purchasing a 1999 two-door Chevrolet Tahoe. A mechanic by trade and a car junkie, he’d had his eyes on that specific SUV for some time. But before he was able to drive away with it, he suffered a heart attack.

Shaddrick had been dealing with heart issues for years and was also working to keep his diabetes under control. But his big heart failed him that day, and he died at the age of 34. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Projecting Rookie Roles


Over at the Philly Voice, Jimmy Kempski had a good post up on snap counts from rookies (draft picks) in 2014.

He found that only six teams got fewer snaps from their draft class than the Eagles. Jordan Matthews was the only pick who played more than 210 snaps for the Eagles last season. Marcus Smith played the second-fewest snaps among first-round picks.

What will these numbers look like next year? Below is a player-by-player look at the Eagles draft picks, what we saw in the spring and where things stand with each guy going into training camp. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Russell Wilson Hypothetical

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Today’s question comes via Twitter:

Let’s start with a disclaimer: Russell Wilson most likely isn’t going anywhere. But it’s June, we all have the football itch, and these are the types of questions fans casually discuss while we wait for training camp. So it doesn’t hurt to at least address it.

Wilson is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season. According to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, he wants to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. So what are the Seahawks’ options? Read more »

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