The Eagles did not go with a lot of household names for their first wave of free agent signings. Time to study up.
To get a little bit better of an understanding of what tight end James Casey, nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, safetyPatrick Chung and linebacker Jason Phillips bring to the table, we rounded up some analysis of the players and reaction to the signings.
Greg Cosell and Adam Caplan did a film session on Sopoaga recently for the team’s website. This is what Cosell had to say:
I’ll tell you what, I thought he played very well in limited snaps in the playoffs. He’s a true nose, and he’s very good at it. But there were games this year, depending on who the 49ers played, where he only played seven, eight snaps, and there were other games where he played 25. So it really depends what kind of offense you are playing against.
Now you have to start thinking of what division you are in. Do the teams in your division play a lot of three wide? Because he’s not likely to be on the field. It comes down to, how many snaps will Sopoaga play in your defense?
Tommy Lawlor over at Iggles Blitz profiles Fletcher.
You may look at the stat sheet and see that Fletcher wasn’t a full time starter in 2012 and wonder what the Eagles were thinking. Watch the tape. I wrote a few times about this guy recently. He had the best pure cover skills of any CB on the market. Is there risk in signing him? Only in the sense that he hasn’t started at CB for 16 games in his 4-year career. Before you get fired up about durability, Fletcher played in 16 games in 2010 and 2012. He started 15 in 2010. He started 4 last year. Why just 4? Because the Rams spent big money on Cortland Finnegan and an early pick on Janoris Jenkins. Fletcher was coming off an injury and they made him the #3 CB. The twist here is that STL put one of the other guys in the slot and Fletcher played LCB. He faced top flight competition. I watched him in several games. Fluid player. Good speed. Good coverage instincts. I wanted the Eagles to get him because Fletcher was the best cover guy available. Simple as that. He gives us a very talented starting CB.
And here are his thoughts on Phillips:
Funny, I’ve been after Jason for a while. I had him as a 3rd round target of the Eagles back in the 2009 draft. He was cut before the 2009 season began and I had interest. He was cut by the Ravens in 2011 and I had interest. Always seemed like a good STer and backup ILB. Let’s be honest about the current backup ILBs. I don’t trust Jamar Chaney or Casey Matthews. Phillips will likely take one of their jobs. The other two can battle it out for the other spot.
Dan Graziano likes the Casey signing in particular.
The idea of someone like Casey, who can function as a blocker, a receiver out of the backfield or a tight end, has to seem exciting to a coach who likes to experiment and stay as multiple as possible on offense. Kelly will want options, and having an H-back or “joker” type of player available to Michael Vick (or whoever the quarterback ends up being this year or down the road) can only help with that. The Eagles can run double-tight end looks with Casey andBrent Celek or line the new guy up in the backfield and force teams to have to account for him as something more than a blocker.
I like the signing. It’s not a big, splashy one, but Casey is a guy who was drawing interest around the league from teams that thought the Texans underused him. The Eagles have work to do on defense, but the defensive back market is overloaded and likely to move slowly. It’s fitting that Kelly’s first big move was on offense, and it’s a move that’s likely to pay dividends as he gets creative.
This John McCLain piece from 2009 on the difficulties that Casey has overcome is a must-read.
Jimmy Kempski of Blogging The Beast dug up a highlight reel of Chung that demonstrates the safety’s ability to lay a lick.
Whenever I needed to feel safe, I used to put on some soothing music, light a candle, and sit down in the Eagles secondary. Chung will make the Eagles secondary a little more uncomfortable.