Mailbag: Revisiting the 2011 Draft; Expectations For Foles

I’m pinch-blogging for T-Mac with the reader mailbag this week. These are e-mails I’ve received in the past few weeks (edited slightly for viewing purposes).

I just spent five minutes looking at the Eagles’ 2011 draft and came to the conclusion that perhaps it’s one of the reasons why this team is having problems. Thoughts?

-Don

SK: I think you’re on to something, Don. The Eagles took 11 players in that draft, and three (Jaiquawn Jarrett, Greg Lloyd and Brian Rolle) are no longer on the team. Of that group, Jarrett, a second-rounder, is obviously the biggest miss. Especially when you consider the Eagles are having trouble on special teams and currently have zero depth at safety.

Losing out on Lloyd and Rolle is really no big deal. In the seventh round, you’re taking fliers on guys. However, it does reflect somewhat poorly on the coaching staff that Rolle went from being a starter in 2011 to getting cut this season.

Really, in most drafts, the first-rounder can make or break the class. The Eagles took Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the first round. If you’re going to take a guard in the first round, your expectations are that the player has a Pro Bowl ceiling. Watkins hasn’t come close to that. Right now, the Eagles would settle for reliable starter. Instead, Watkins has been average at best and too up-and-down. He shows flashes at times, but overall, has been a disappointment.

The Eagles took Curtis Marsh in the third round. Before the season, the thought was to get him some playing time this year, with the possibility that he could start in 2013 should Nnamdi Asomugha or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie be gone. While Marsh looked good at training camp, he’s played exactly nine defense snaps, and we have no clue whether he’s a starting-caliber player.

The fourth-round picks were Casey Matthews and Alex Henery. Matthews plays special teams and is a backup at multiple linebacker spots, which isn’t bad for a fourth-rounder. Henery has been fine, although you can certainly debate the merits of taking a kicker so early.

Dion Lewis (fifth round) was supposed to be LeSean McCoy’s backup this year, but has only been active for one game. It would come as no surprise if he were to be off the roster completely at some point in the next month or two.

Julian Vandervelde, a sixth-rounder, is back on the practice squad after getting cut before the season. Jason Kelce (sixth round) and Stanley Havili (seventh round) look like the best of the bunch. Kelce projects as a quality center for years to come (assuming he’s healthy), and Havili has been a pleasant surprise at fullback this year.

But overall, yes, I think it’s fair to say that lack of production from the 2011 class has led to issues in some key areas (pass protection, safety, running back depth and special teams).

Colt Anderson is not even close to an NFL-caliber safety.  If he’s our third guy, then we’re in trouble whenever one of the starters goes down (like the last game).  Need another alternative.  David Sims must be better.

-David

SK: It’s a fair point, David. This team just can’t seem to get the safety position right. Remember, they tried a few different things this offseason. They were interested in free agent Yeremiah Bell, but he signed with the Jets. They signed Oshiomogho Atogwe, but he couldn’t stay healthy at camp and was cut. And they wanted Jarrett to fill a backup role, but he just didn’t pan out.

I remember in the first couple weeks of the season thinking that safety depth was a major issue. Then I kind of forgot about it because Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen stayed healthy. Last week, when Allen got hurt, Anderson had to come in, and it wasn’t pretty (although he’s a great special-teams player).

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles worked out a safety or two in the coming weeks, but the truth is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot out there. We’ll see if they groom Sims, but remember, he’s only been a special-teams player too and has never played a defensive snap in the NFL.

Do you think the Eagles could/should/will re-sign C Jamaal Jackson?

-Tjade

SK: I don’t see it, Tjade. Howard Mudd clearly wanted a more athletic center when he took over last summer. Given Dallas Reynolds’ struggles, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world to me. Jackson won’t be able to do all the things Kelce did, but you’d think he would know his assignments and do a better job of keeping Michael Vick upright. I have no idea what kind of shape Jackson’s in, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles make a move at center, it doesn’t look like he’ll be the one getting the call.

What I would like to know is the possibility of a change – not to Nick Foles, but to Trent Edwards.  I understand that Foles is listed as the No. 2 QB, but my thinking is Edwards has NFL starter experience and he would be more of a “game manager” not an impact QB that carries the high risk/high reward type of play. What are your thoughts?

-Joe

SK: A few people have asked me about this. I see zero point to playing Edwards. Let’s start with the fact that he hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2010. And don’t confuse “game manager” for “takes care of the football.” Edwards has 26 career touchdowns and 30 career interceptions. He’s been picked off once every 30.9 attempts. That’s barely better than Vick this year (once every 28.9 attempts).

There aren’t many things that would shock me with this team, but playing Edwards would be one of them.

I have to say I get really annoyed when people dismiss the idea of Nick Foles as throwing in the towel. WHY? Because rookies will make too many mistakes? Is he going to turn the ball over FIVE or SIX times per game?? I think he reads and reacts more quickly than Vick and throws with better ACCURACY. Also, do people really mean to tell me that this kid is not in the same ballpark with Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton?? No one was impressed with those picks last year and they have done fairly well so far despite the skepticism. And I think he has more pedigree than both of them!! Why is it so easy to assume he would fail??

-Jeff

SK: Jeff is fired up!

The truth is, you’re right that Foles is an unknown. And that works both ways. To say he reads and reacts more quickly than Vick and is more accurate is not a fair statement because you’re basing it on his college and preseason performance. Regular-season NFL games provide a different level of competition.

But it’s also not fair to say that playing Foles would be a clear move for the future. There is at least the possibility that he turns the ball over less than Vick. As a point of comparison, here are Vick’s numbers compared to the league’s rookies who are playing this year:

 
Comp. %
YPA
Touchdowns
INTs
Michael Vick58.97.188
Andrew Luck53.46.777
Robert Griffin III70.28.352
Ryan Tannehill59.67.346
Brandon Weeden55.86.6710
Russell Wilson59.47.087

If anything, the table shows that production is often based on expectations. All of the rookie quarterbacks, except Griffin, have had their share of issues with interceptions. And keep in mind, these were all first-round picks, except for Wilson. The table doesn’t take running numbers or fumbles into account. But you can see how Vick stacks up to the rookies from a passing standpoint.

Having said that, Andy Reid may come to the conclusion at some point that he can’t deal with Vick’s turnovers and mistakes. And he might be intrigued with the thought of playing Foles. I know some will argue that such a move would be to save his job and convince Jeffrey Lurie that he’s the right guy to develop the franchise’s next quarterback.

I don’t see it that way. I think Reid likes being the Eagles’ head coach. But he also knows he’ll get a job elsewhere if he gets fired. He put his imprint on the team’s offseason moves and believes the Eagles are built to win now. That’s part of the reason why he fired Juan Castillo even though the defense had played relatively well.

In other words, if Reid goes to Foles, it will be because he thinks the rookie can give him a better chance than Vick to win this year. Not because he’s looking ahead o 2013 and beyond.

Teams are stacking the line or putting eight in the box and daring the Eagles to burn them. Do you see the same thing?

-Bill

After we spent so much time talking about how teams play their safeties deep, that seems crazy to say, Bill. But guess what? You’re at least partially right.

It’s not every week, and it’s not every play, but there are absolutely times when defenses gear up to stop the Eagles’ run. Take a look at this image from last week’s game:

Detroit has all three linebackers and a safety ready to attack the line of scrimmage.

I’ll write more about Vick and the deep ball in a later post. But I’ve definitely seen defenses say: We will either be able to get to Vick, or he’ll miss the throw in regards to the Eagles’ deep ball. And in many cases, they’ve been right.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mjacobs45 Matt Jacobs

    As far as how defenses are playing the Birds offense, it’s a total indictment of Reid/Marty/Vick. They have no idea how to attack what defenses are giving you. If teams are playing their safeties 18 yds deep, they should check off to a run. If they have 8 in the box or showing blitz, it should be three step. Either Vick is not smart enough to make these calls or Reid/Marty won’t let him thus forcing a square peg in a round hole.