Taking Stock Of the Eagles’ Draft Picks

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

With the Eagles’ final spring practice in the books, now’s a good time to take stock of what we saw from the first-year players taken in last month’s draft. Here’s a player-by-player look:

Marcus Smith – The first-round pick is focusing on the ‘Jack’ spot for now. Smith looks the part – long and athletic with the ability to drop back into coverage and line up in a variety of spots. That said, he got most of his reps with the third team this spring. It’s going to take some time for Smith to learn the position and move up the depth chart. The guess here is he’ll continue to learn the Jack and eventually move up to the second team behind Connor Barwin this summer. Once the season starts, he’ll likely be a rotational player, sometimes replacing Barwin (who can slide over to Trent Cole’s Predator spot) and other times replacing Cole.

Jordan Matthews – We’ve poked fun here at the Matthews hype, but in reality he was impressive during the spring. The Vanderbilt product caught everything thrown his way and lined up both inside and outside. Most of his reps came in the slot with the second team, but Matthews is likely to emerge as the No. 1 slot guy this summer. Chip Kelly is hoping to get him matched up against smaller nickel corners, and Matthews should be productive as a rookie. In the summer, once the pads come on, he’ll get a chance to show he has the necessary physicality to make plays inside the numbers. Matthews will also need to show a good grasp of the outside spots. If Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper goes down, he’s most likely to slide out there.

Josh Huff – The Eagles’ third-round pick plays with an edge and physicality. That’s going to be fun to observe up-close once the pads go on.

“He’s just transitioning because our terminology is different than what he had in college,” Kelly said. “I can explain because I know what his terminology in college was like, so we called it this [at Oregon and we call it this now]. Real student of the game. I think he and Jordan have hit it off and really play off each other right now, so it’s two good young guys to go together.”

The likeliest outcome for Huff as a rookie is that he rotates in as the No. 4 receiver and contributes on special teams. But he’s got a chance to earn a larger role with an impressive summer.

Jaylen Watkins – I was thinking yesterday that I don’t remember noticing Watkins much this spring. From what I saw, he’s practicing exclusively at cornerback – both inside and outside. Given that he’s got Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin and Nolan Carroll II ahead of him, Watkins may have a tough time getting on the field as a rookie. But again, it’s early. He’ll get all summer to prove himself.

Taylor Hart – Given the nature of the practices – shorts, no hitting – defensive line is extremely difficult to evaluate. Hart lined up mostly with the third team at defensive end. Assuming the Eagles go with a six-man defensive line rotation in 2014, Hart will likely have to beat out 2013 seventh-round pick Joe Kruger to earn playing time as a rookie.

Ed Reynolds – Because of NCAA rules, he couldn’t join the team until last week.

“There is no compensation,” Kelly said. “Those are the rules. Zach [Ertz] went through it last year. …We were allowed to Skype with him. So our defensive coaches and special team coaches, secondary coaches, John Lovett and [Dave] Fipp Skyped with him I think once a week.

“Just follow the rules that they have in place for those guys. …It’s not like if we put him out here now, it’s like, okay, now he hasn’t been here – our whole premise is we are going to throw him in at the deep end and see if he can swim.”

Reynolds watched film of practice, listened to podcasts of team meetings and Skyped with coaches while he was away. The advice Ertz gave him was to get in tip-top shape.

The Stanford product is in a tough spot behind Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff and Chris Maragos on the depth chart. He’ll need to flash this summer to earn a role.

Beau Allen – See above section on Hart.

Allen saw most of his reps at nose tackle with the third team. His job this summer will be to beat out second-year player Damion Square for that spot.

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  • Bullwinkle

    The Birds are adding depth with talented players who fit the Kelly mode in terms of physical, mental, and character traits. This bodes well for the future.

    • Eagles1018

      Except at inside linebacker. Looks like they won’t spell Ryans a lot on 3rd downs but that’s what ate us up last year on defense

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I think they would’ve liked to add someone there but really weren’t interested in anyone like Kirskey or Tripp, once Mosley was off the board.

        • guest

          I’m surprised they didn’t take a chance on Christian Jones in the 6th or 7th. I have to think the failed drug test took him off their board (along with every other team too). Its a shame…I would have much preferred him to Reynolds or Allen.

          I think they could have had Zumwalt with the Reynolds pick (I’m not 100% sure on that though). But its probably similar value to Reynolds at that point.

      • Tom w

        Safety play really ate us up on third down and lack of pass rush. Demeco will be our starter at ilb for next two yrs. you’ll get your ilb next yr in the draft.

      • shady25

        They are banking on Najee Goode taking that next step. I read he is the primary backup for both ILB spots. Probably cross training him since Knott is gone for the first 4 games.

        • guest

          Dont sleep on Jason Phillips. He’s been Kendricks backup with the 2s and is a better player than Knott. And I like Knott.

          But Goode would still probably be the guy to replace Kendricks if necessary, ahead of Phillips

          • shady25

            At this point I’m not sleeping on anyone. Those were Jason Phillips words from his interview

  • Scott J

    Along with Maclin, Mathews and Huff will be interesting to watch next month.

    • Token

      I really hope Matthews is the real deal. I just like the way the kid approaches his job.

  • Token

    So their first pick isnt even being played as a pass rusher? Ugh… Where the hell is the pass rush coming from this year? Just hope Cole turns the clock back 5 years? Maybe that ex army guy? I mean what exactly is the plan?

    • Honest_T

      My take on Smith in the Jack role is that people won’t know where the rush is coming from when he’s on the field. The Offense knows Cole & Graham aren’t dropping in coverage, but if Smith starts subbing for Barwin and shows cover skills, then when he replaces Cole the O doesn’t know who’s rushing and who’s dropping.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Yes, Davis even said as much when he stated that he wants to mirror each side, at each position, being equally capable of what’s asked of them. I believe this was even in response to questions regarding Smith learning the Jack role and he [Davis] expanded it to being the goal at each position on the defense.

        • B-West

          Exactly. Adding to that, the OLBs can probably get higher quality work on their drops and coverage responsibilities than their pass rush during the no-contact practices.

      • Token

        Yea I get that whole thought process. But if you want a drop OLB you dont take him there IMO. Lets say best case scenario hes another Connor Barwin. Connor is good at his job. But he cant rush the passer. Just isnt good at it. So having another one of those types does little for you. Its all about getting to the QB. We cant do that. We needed to fix that. Im just trying to figure out the plan.

        Unless im really misjudging things, it looks like they are counting on Trent Cole to be the rushing force once again. Guy is toast. Just doesnt make sense to me.

        • Andy

          Barwin can rush the passer. He had 11 1/2 sacks in 2011. He just isn’t able to because Cole is a one-dimensional OLB and can only rush the passer, so to the extent one of them is ever going to drop, it is usually going to be Barwin.

          • Token

            He cant. Just focus on the guy. He is always matched up 1v1. Rarely ever wins. Many sacks come unblocked.

            In Texas, the year everyone loves to point to, he was on a great DL. He can do a variety of things well, but hes not a good pass rusher.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            Barwin’s sack totals in his other three full seasons are 3.5, three, and five. Throw out the double digit outlier, and you see he isn’t much of a sack artist.

          • ….but he’s one of the league-leaders in PBUs. that’s just as good. Sacks are 1 factor only. He showed last year to be extremely effective as a rusher, considering actual rush opportunities (not downs played) along with hurries/incompletions and PBUs.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            I disagree. PBU don’t cause fumbles, and don’t lose yardage. Sacks do, so they are both positives, but not equal. Barwin still rushed about 60% of the time so he had plenty of opportunities. He had something like 435 rushes, 5 sacks, 8 hurries, and 10 PBU. That’s like a 5% success rate. I just don’t think he’s good enough to be that guy a team counts on to generate pass rush

        • JofreyRice

          maybe they think Smith has a chance to be a little bit better of a passrusher than Barwin, and just want him to become competent enough in coverage and run support so they can comfortably interchange them?

          Agreed that Barwin can’t rush the passer for anything. I guess we have to hope that Cole’s 8 sacks down the stretch were more a sign of him getting comfortable in the role and less the fact that he started getting matchups against RB’s and bum T’s, like he did in Chicago. I mean, we always knew he was going to be the starter because of guaranteed money, anyway.

          • Token

            Maybe thats it. Id just rather see them focusing on getting him ready to atleast be a rotational pass rusher THIS year. Its early, who knows.

            Cole, yea we both know those sacks were exactly because of the reasons you listed. 3 of the sacks were in the Bears game that never was really a game to begin with. Was a great player for quite awhile. But for them to really be counting on him again is insane.

            This is all part of a overall picture that makes me feel not to excited about football, at least not yet. I just dont see where their weaknesses from last year were addressed in any significant way. S may be marginally better. Pass rush I cant see how it changes much. ILB is still a problem.

            Im excited about Matthews. And ill assume the offense will be just fine, but even thats a bit of a question mark. I certainly dont see a offense thats soo amazing that playing D wont matter. Its not the Broncos of last year.

            My goal this offseason was for the D to get to the point where they are good enough. Just top 10-15 or so. Good at getting pressure. I dont see the improvements. It seems more of a “Our coaching is so good we will drastically improve just because of that” mindset. Maybe it will. I just dont think they have the horses on that side of the ball. Really hard to run a two gap 3-4 with fairly weak ILB play in addition to not having any dominating rusher off the edge. Really hard.

          • Show And Prove

            IMO based on the cards they were dealt, I think they improved on defense to the best of their ability. They were smart to not go after Jairus Byrd because he was asking for too much money and they got a great leader/underrated player in Malcolm Jenkins. I’m also pretty sure if the damn Packers hadn’t taken HaHa Clinton Dix, he would be an eagle right now. Once he was off the board, they took the best available guy at a need position. Our LB’s are definitely the weakest part of our defense and I’m glad they addressed that in the draft. I don’t think they had much of a choice. There also weren’t many LB’s or DE’s that they could go after in free agency.

            What players do you think they should they have gone after in free agency to address the weak pass rush and who do you think they should have drafted instead of Smith to address it as well?

        • Amar

          Barwin is an excellent pass rusher. Still remember his sack-force-fumble of RG 2.9 towards the end of the Skins game.

          • JofreyRice

            no offense, but it’s not hard to remember his individual sacks, there were only 3 of them in 17 games. Take away the batted passes as a metric for pressure, which mostly came when he was completely unblocked and he’s one of the least productive passrushing 3-4 OLBs in the NFL. I mean, the Eagles told you what they thought of him, he dropped 60 more times than any other 3-4 OLB in the NFL; #1 by a lot, in that category.

            It seems the plan for the “mirrored” D is to rely on strength of the scheme and Davis’ playcall ability more than strength or skill of individual players. I can live with that, if Davis makes the right calls, and takes advantages of confused protections to get free rushers at the QB, but I can’t agree that Barwin is anything close to “excellent” as a passrusher; if the guy is blocked, 85% of the time, he’s out of the play. After free agency and the draft, Trent Cole is still the best passrushing LB on the Eagles roster.

          • cliff henny

            if the hope is ‘they’re all good rushers when they are free rushers’ then yeah, davis better be a genius. till Davis shows he’s a genius that Geagle promises, or everyone is 2 sacks better, mirror rushers confuses, can see why fans want/discuss having 15 sack beast on outside, we know that works. see how it plays out. hope it works.

          • Amar

            “it’s not hard to remember his individual sacks, there were only 3 of them”

          • John E. Zang

            He didn’t have many opportunities to go after the qb so idk how you can make the assumption from his low sack total. Look when he was on Houston and not injured. He had double digits. Philly brought him in to take advantage of his versatility especially on a first year transitioning defense. He was hugely valuable last year for that.

          • JofreyRice

            I’m not even talking about raw numbers–of course his are very poor–I’m talking about productivity. Sacks+Pressures+Hurries/Opportunities. He’s awful in that category, unless you factor in the unblocked batted passes. 3 sacks on 437 pass rush attempts per PFF. Sheil has put up those stats before. Back when he had those sacks in Houston, he was playing a much different role and rushing the QB almost 100% of the time, his pass rush productivity was absysmal then, too.

        • Reasonableeaglefan

          I agree with this post entirely.

        • jmkrav

          You are really misjudging things.

          Barwin isn’t an elite pass rusher but he is also not a bum. He’s pretty solid there. Especially when you account for tipped passes. He will have more sacks if he is asked to drop less.

          The “plan” isn’t to have one dominant 15+ sack guy. The plan is to get incremental 2-3 sack improvement from many. The case can be made that each of the following guys will contribute 2-3 more sacks than last year:
          -Bennie Logan over Sopoaga at NT for the whole year
          -Barwin rushing more bc Smith can cover
          -Cole because of his 2nd half improvement and comfort level w the D
          -Same for Cox and Kendrick’s who improved a lot.

          That’s 5 guys. Let’s get 2 more sacks at least from each, maybe 3-4 extra sacks from Cole. All the sudden it’s a 10-15 sack improvement over last year.


          • Reasonableeaglefan

            He’s closer to a bum than elite. You could get 2-3 more out of those guys, but you can’t count on that. You can say they didn’t add a dynamic pass rusher to a D that needs one.

          • Dominik

            But you can also say they didn’t have a chance to add a dynamic pass rusher. Do you remember one being available at FA? Or at 22? I don’t. Now if they would have had a chance to pick one and didn’t, I’d be with you. But the chips didn’t fall their way and they made the best of it, imho.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            That’s very true. Some like Dee Ford, I didn’t think he fit in our scheme.
            All this talk that scheme and disguise will generate pressure just reminds me of when Andy thought his scheme was so good he didn’t need top notch WRs.

          • Dominik

            If they would have let a guy like Mack slip past them, you can bet I’d be right with you. ;)

            I think Chip values pass rushers. If we’ll have a chance to get a good one I think they’ll do it, even via FA. Remember, you have to have rotation with your front seven guys. Cole will be gone next season, Graham too. There’s room for one more OLB next year, with Smith and Barwin around.

          • Ben

            You could also say it takes time to learn all the nuances of a 3-4 and now that we have had a year in the scheme, our players are starting to click. I project a huge improvement for our overall defense and a big jump in sacks as well.
            Our defense is probably the most underrated defense in the league.
            This season will let you know if the players we have can excel in the 3-4.
            From what I have been hearing we should expect a huge improvement.

          • cliff henny

            agree, think that’s the plan…but there’s a whole lot more moving parts than say drafting Von Miller type and letting him play ‘kill the qb’.

          • very well said, but wasted words.

            Token, where were you all the articles explaining Smith’s role? or how Davis stated he’d rather have 2 Connor’s than anything else? are you really @fakewipcaller?

    • guest

      The Jack still rushes the passer most of the time. And the Predator occasionally drops in coverage. Jesus…everyone gets so caught up in this hype that the Jack is strictly a cover LB and the Predator is strictly a pass rusher.

      Remember who the head coach is. Its about versatility. Ideally, you have two Jacks. Ideally, you have eleven Jacks, so the offense doesn’t know who is doing what.

      The ex-army guy is a 3-4 DE. Why would you expect pass rush from him?

      You post here an awful lot. I figured you would be more knowledgeable about this stuff.

      • Token

        Thanks for the education. You really have a firm grasp on all of this.

        • Ben

          yes young Padawan, he who listens most can learn many things, but he who writes with uneducated fingers finds himself thanking others for doing the thinking for him.

    • Amar

      It seems the thought process is, Barwin is the best pass rusher, lets get Smith to play Jack and use Barwin to go after the QB more often.

      • Reasonableeaglefan

        Barwin is average, at best, at rushing the QB. If Smith isn’t a demon off the edge, it’s going to be a lot of scheming up pressure. I think that’s Davis’ plan, but I’d prefer to have a guy or 2 who can just beat his man with or without the disguise.

    • 76mustang

      The plan is to score f***ing points, what’s your plan??? :o

    • UWotM8

      The pass rush will be coming from Dion Jordan.

      Soon we’ll be together…

  • Andy124

    Speaking of Taking Stock of the Rookies, I took Jordan Matthews’ stock advice and now I can afford to retire and post here even more!

    • cliff henny

      shoot, players are turning themselves into stocks. wonder what the IPO on Matthews would be?


      • NickS1

        The Vernon Davis IPO is kind of laughable.

        • cliff henny

          oh, it’s the dumbest thing ever!

      • Joe from Easton

        Imagine what Foles’ IPO would be right now. That return would be ludicrous.

    • myeaglescantwin

      Jordan Matthews can piss his name into concrete!

  • Amar

    I’m glad Jordan Matthews’ took time out of designing attack formation for the Netherlands soccer team to join the Eagles OTAs.

    • Javi Echie

      He actually designed the two plays the USA scored on!!

      • Amar

        Rumor is, the France coach went through some of the trash in Jordan Matthew’s room and came up with plays to go up 4-0 against Switzerland.

        • Javi Echie

          touché my friend

  • UKEagle99

    Slight mistake in the above, The Eagles did not pick Jordan Matthews, he picked them.

    • Charliefoxtrot

      Right now Matthews is cloaked in a ghillie suit, blending in perfectly with the grass field at Novacare. He waits, sipping his own urine, waiting for 35 days to pass till camp, emerging only at night to train and feed.

      • Chip Kelly


      • Richard Colton

        great name

        • Andy124

          The name was clearly inspired by our defense when Chung was on the field.

    • myeaglescantwin

      Chef Boyardi made a special alphabet soup for Jordan Matthews, it only has two letters T & D

  • Sheil (and Tim), you have often noted this spring that when Marcus Smith comes on, it is likely Connor shifts to Predator. Any Cole/Smith looks with Barwin taking a breather?

    Similarly, did you see any looks (or prognosticate) or more pass-rush heavy package from spring practice? I could present the case for an effective4-2-5 nickel look, on 3rd/long, of Cole-Curry-Cox-Smith, with Kendricks-Barwin at LB. Or even Kendricks-Ryan. Curious if Davis has any varieties really geared towards generating a 5 or 6 man rush.

    • Warhound

      I think a case could be made for a 3-3-5 and a 2-3-6.

      • I’m a huge fan of the 3-3-5 myself. I’m thinking Curry-Cox- Thornton, Smith-Kendricks-Barwin would be pretty devastating. And 1 of the DBs always a threat to blitz. That would put many a QB through quite the mental workout

    • Reasonableeaglefan

      I am really intrigued by the scenarios you present. I’m hopeful that they bring these type of packages out. Judging by what Meco said it doesn’t seem likely, my guess is he still on the field a lot

  • MediaMike

    Anybody want to take another run at their best guess 53 man roster after now that mini-camps are over?