Even though he’s the wide receivers coach, Bob Bicknell didn’t need a football during a “teach” period at Monday’s practice.
The emphasis during this particular session was on blocking. It’s an aspect of playing the position that is often overlooked, and it’s not something that shows up in the box score or gets guys big pay checks.
But in Chip Kelly’s system, it’s crucial. Last year, Oregon had 43 runs of 20+ yards. That was No. 1 in the nation. In 2011, the number was 40 (third). And in 2010, 39 (fourth). Spread the defense out, run the football, and hit on big plays. Such a plan requires wide receivers to take care of defensive backs on the outside.
“Obviously, with the different type of stuff that we’re doing, there’s different techniques that you have to work on as opposed to the other techniques that are standard in the west coast offense,” said Jeremy Maclin.
The truth is, Maclin and the Eagles wide receivers were poor blockers in 2012. With a likely emphasis on the run game, wide receiver screens and quick passes, that will have to change in 2013.
The team has given itself more options going forward. The Eagles acquired Arrelious Benn from Tampa, and he’s proven to be a good blocker in the past. On a wide receiver screen to Maclin on Monday, Benn shoved cornerback Bradley Fletcher out of bounds, creating space for his teammate.
The Eagles also have a versatile group of tight ends who are capable of lining up in a variety of different places. For example, you might see Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson on the same side of the field with the tight end blocking for the speedy wide receiver.
“If they ask you to block, then that’s what you have to do,” Maclin said. “There’s some offenses where they don’t ask guys to block. Some of the greatest receivers of all time never had to block. That’s just how it is.”
Every wide receivers coach in the NFL will say blocking is part of being a complete player. Some really mean it, others not so much.
But if the past is any indication, certain aspects of Kelly’s offense simply won’t work if the wide receivers don’t do their jobs as blockers.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Good take on Brandon Graham from Tommy Lawlor over on IgglesBlitz.com:
The biggest thing I look for in a pass rusher is whether the player is explosive. Graham isn’t. He wins with good burst and great leverage. He is very good with the bull rush. There are some plays when he’s able to get his hands in the chest of the blocker and jolt him. Graham can then get by the blocker. Graham uses the rip move very well, which ties in to his use of leverage. Graham tried spin moves in a couple of games and had mixed results.
One of Graham’s best assets is his motor. He doesn’t give up when initially blocked. He will fight to disengage from the blocker and then will chase the ball all over the field. He makes hustle plays.
Albert Breer of NFL.com offers his impressions from Eagles’ OTAs:
Fourth-round draft pick Matt Barkley made his share of rookie mistakes, throwing into coverage and holding the ball too long. But on throws in which he was locked in and had it right, he flashed fantastic accuracy. And in the long run, that’s important, especially in the style of play preferred by head coach Chip Kelly.
Never a dull moment with this team. We’ll have plenty to get you through the day.