From Connor Barwin’s role to Chip Kelly’s love for DeMeco Ryans to Cary Williams’ future, here are three Eagles leftovers.
1. The Eagles’ two outside linebacker positions were not created equal in 2013. Trent Cole made the transition from defensive end, usually lining up on the right side. Barwin’s spot was labeled the “jack” by Billy Davis, as in jack of all trades. That meant Barwin usually lined up on the left side and dropped back into coverage far more often than Cole.
According to Pro Football Focus, Barwin dropped 42.3 percent of the time on passing downs and rushed the QB 57.7 percent of the time.
“I can do it so it fits my skill set and I’m fine with it,” Barwin said last week. “Whatever way Billy [Davis] wants to use me. And I’m sure, who knows how it’ll evolve next year? I could see myself being in a similar role or I could see it being different. It just matters how this defensive evolves, what happens. But I don’t mind at all. I think it makes our defense better. I think Billy did a great job of utilizing the talent that we had.”
Cole, meanwhile, dropped 21.7 percent of the time and rushed 78.3 percent of the time.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Eagles want from the outside linebacker spot opposite Barwin. On one hand, they could use a prolific pass-rusher who drops at about the same rate Cole did last year, but wreaks havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
On the other hand, we know Davis and Chip Kelly value versatility. Perhaps they would want someone with a skill set similar to Barwin’s. That would allow Davis some more flexibility in disguising where he’s sending the pressure from.
One way or another, we’ll get an answer in the coming months. It would be an upset if the Eagles didn’t tweak with their personnel at outside linebacker this offseason.
2. We’ve mentioned before in this space that Kelly has favorites. If you want one guy’s take on the short list of players he loves, it would go like this: Brent Celek, Demeco Ryans, Cedric Thornton, Jason Kelce.
I got a chance to ask two of those four why they think Kelly is so fond of them.
Said Ryans: “I love playing the game of football, and he loves coaching football. And I guess that’s just where we meet. You cut out all the distractions and you focus on what’s gonna get us better, how can we get better, how can we win today. And that’s kind of my approach. And that’s his approach also.”
And Celek: “Everything that coaches ask of you, I feel like you should do. They pay you a lot of money around here and whatever they want me to do I’ll do. And I think they just appreciate that.”
There’s been some chatter about one or both of Ryans/Celek not returning next season. I don’t see it. They’re both productive players, and Kelly loves what they bring in terms of building a new culture at the NovaCare Complex.
3. I’m curious to see what the Eagles do at the cornerback position in the coming months. Free agency needs generally fit into one of three categories. The first is absolute need. For example, that’s safety for the Birds. They simply cannot afford to go into 2014 with the same guys.
The second is not even thinking about it. For the Eagles, that’s starting running back. They have LeSean McCoy. No need to even look at the top guys on the market at that spot.
And the third is where most positions fall: if there’s an upgrade available.
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher played better than expected in 2013. Neither is a shutdown guy, but both corners compete and are physical. You can go into 2014 with them as the starters and be OK.
But you can also upgrade the talent. According to The Inquirer, the Eagles have to decide on Williams by March 16. That’s when his $4.75M salary for 2014 becomes guaranteed.
Asked if he thinks he’ll be back, Williams said: “That’s not my decision to make. I’m just Employee 26. That may be the case. That may not be the case. It just depends on what the team wants to do and what it’s gonna take for us to be successful next year. The great thing about the NFL is there’s always gonna be personnel changes every year. The team’s not gonna be exactly the same. And we understand that. …It is a business at the end of the day, and we’re in the business of winning games. That’s the most important thing for an organization, for a franchise. And we want to go deep in the playoffs.
“I played pretty well this season. I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t be back. But at the end of the day, I don’t know what the team wants and what direction they want to go into. So if I’m not back, then it’s not the end of the world for me. I’m gonna continue to do what I’ve done, and that’s work hard, come to work, play with intensity, play with aggression and play 60 minutes wherever I’m at.”