Eagles Wake-Up Call: Whither the 2011 Draft Class?

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.Look closely at Thursday’s game against the Jets, and you will see the 2011 Eagles draft class fighting for its life.

Five of the 11 draftees — Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dion Lewis, Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd and Stanley Havili — are no longer with the team. Jarrett will be on the field Thursday as a member of the  Jets, as the Temple product tries to breathe life back into his career.

Two of the six remaining members — fourth-round pick Alex Henery and sixth-rounder Jason Kelce — are safe. The rest, not as much. Casey Matthews and Julian Vandervelde are on the fringe. Third-round pick Curtis Marsh is in murky waters after breaking his hand.

And then there is Danny Watkins. The former No. 23 overall selection is trying to claim a reserve role. Maybe he’ll make the 53-man, maybe he won’t. It’s really not about whether Watkins survives the final cut. The story is that his status is in question to begin with.

On the day the Eagles drafted the then 26-year old, Andy Reid called Watkins “as good of a football player as there was in the draft.” Said that he received glowing reviews from just about everyone in the building, including Howie Roseman.

“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top. This was a guy that he really wanted and liked,” said Reid. [This, by the way, seems to run counter to Jeffrey Lurie‘s claim that “The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations.”]

“And so, when I looked at him I said, ‘This guy is as fine of a football player on the offensive line that you have in this draft.’ And then Howard [Mudd] came back and he said the same thing…He’s one of those guys that you can’t help but like when you look at him. He knows how to play the game. It’s not going to take a Rhodes  Scholar.”

Two seasons later, Watkins is on the bubble. He is the symbol of a draft gone largely wrong.

In an attempt to make Eagles fans weep, Bill Barnwell of Grantland just penned a piece  that contends that the 2011 draft class  is shaping up to be the best defensive group  in modern NFL history. The Eagles have zero projected starters on defense from that crop. [They went Jarrett, Marsh, Matthews in Rounds 2-4.]

The good news is that the 2012 class has the early looks of a winner. Fletcher Cox,  Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Bryce Brown and Dennis Kelly could all have roles on this team. Some of them starring roles, even. It’s way too early to judge the ’13 group, but that, too, has potential. There are some building blocks.

You can argue that 10 players from the past two drafts (Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, Earl Wolff, Cox, Kendricks, Curry, Foles, Boykin, Brown) have a legitimate chance of contributing in a meaningful way this season. Throw in Kelly for 11 if you want. Either way, it’s a healthy representation.

The ’11 class, meanwhile, is just trying to survive.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil identifies 10 players that are on the roster bubble. 

Chip Kelly may be hands off to some degree when it comes to defense, but it is still being built in his vision.

Last call to be an intern for Birds 24/7.

Matt Barkley doesn’t want his rookie season to “slip away.”

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

DeMeco Ryans is high on Kendricks. From Reuben Frank:

“He’s communicating more, he’s understanding the game better, he’s seeing things a lot better. I’m just proud of the way he’s grown from Year 1 to now. I can just see that maturity in him, and the knowledge in his game is just picking up.

“I’m really proud of the steps that he’s made. The kid has unbelievable talent, and I just want to see him reach his full potential. The sky’s the limit for him because he has ability that a lot of people don’t have. He’s just gifted. Just God-given talent, and I want to see him able to maximize it.”

Phil Sheridan predicts that the Eagles go 8-8.

Picking a .500 record seems like a cop-out, but there is precious little to go on as Chip Kelly takes over for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Will Kelly’s go-go offensive approach work in the NFL? Can Michael Vick thrive again after two years marred by injuries and turnovers? Is the read option a growing trend or have defensive coordinators solved it? Can the Eagles’ defense regain respectability even as coordinator Bill Davis shifts from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with mismatched personnel?

That’s way too many big questions to consider the Eagles a likely playoff team. They are, after all, coming off a 4-12 season. But Kelly’s system, facilitated by LT Jason Peters and a healthy offensive line, should be able to put points on the board. One thing is for sure: The Eagles’ offensive players are very excited about their potential.

COMING UP

Game day. We’ll both be in New York. Kapadia will see some snaps at  quarterback for the Jets in the fourth quarter.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Barkley Doesn’t Want Season To ‘Slip Away’

Matt BarkleyThe question posed to Matt Barkley was straightforward: When’s the last time you went into a football season and weren’t the starting quarterback?

Barkley paused for about four seconds, thought about it briefly and then answered.

“I can’t think of a time,” he said.

“It’s different, but I think since the announcement came out about Mike [Vick], I kind of realized that’s what it is, so you take it in stride and you learn to deal with it. It’s not like a ground-breaking deal. It’s not that drastic. You want to see the field, you want to play, but it’s just another opportunity to learn. I’ve said that before. Just try to grow from it.”

A four-year starter in high school and again at USC, Barkley is in unfamiliar territory. He will fade into the background this year as the third-string QB behind Vick and Nick Foles. In all likelihood, the only way he’ll play meaningful snaps as a rookie is if the two guys ahead of him get injured.

Obviously, that’s not an ideal situation. So Barkley’s focus has shifted to making sure his first year is not a waste just because he won’t be playing on Sundays.

“Not letting the season just slip away because I’m not playing, that’s what I don’t want,” he said. “Making sure that I grow and progress to where next offseason I feel like I’m steps ahead of where I was. I definitely don’t want this to be steps back. So just take every day like it’s your job to lose, even if it’s not. That’s how I look at it.”

Added Chip Kelly: “I think [QBs coach] Billy Lazor has done a pretty good job there. His career of developing quarterbacks, and that’s a big thing, what is your gameplan when your guys are not playing? Because that’s the one position where you’re not going to play, barring an injury, you’re not going to play multiple guys.

“We’ve talked about it and what his plan is for Matt and for Nick [Foles] if we kept going and Mike [Vick] stays healthy. You’ve got a couple of guys that you’ve got to really make sure that they are on top of their game. And it’s hard, because they don’t get those reps and it’s not like you can throw them in a scrimmage situation. …You are always planning for your next opponent. There’s a plan in place from how much we are throwing, what days we are throwing on with those guys to continue to develop them.”

One of the main knocks on Barkley coming out of USC was his arm strength. He dealt with a shoulder injury as a senior, but thinks he has improved and can make all the throws.

“I think my arm strength has gotten better since the injury,” Barkley said. “I think it took a lot longer to heal than I thought it would. I feel strong where I am right now. I don’t know if I’ve had a chance to really showcase that, but that’s not up to me. So I’ll do as much as I can to keep getting that arm stronger. I think over time, even over the course of your career, you should still be trying to get that stronger.”

His rookie season in the NFL is probably different than what Barkley was anticipating at this time last year. But he’ll look to progress in the classroom, the weight room and on the practice field before potentially getting a shot down the road.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles waived Phillip Hunt to get their roster down to 75.

Three leftovers from Kelly, including the Eagles’ head coach confirming that he has final say on the 53-man roster.

T-Mac explores what the Eagles are going to do about injured offensive tackle Dennis Kelly.

Our latest No-22 breakdown looks at how Connor Barwin is finding success in a variety of roles.

Tim checks in on Clay Harbor and life on the bubble.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Jones of the Washington Post has the latest on Robert Griffin III, who will be checked out by Dr. James Andrews on Thursday:

Griffin has taken all of the first-team reps in the past two weeks of practice, and teammates believe that he will open the season as their starter. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Griffin “looks 100 percent to me,” and Mike Shanahan said Griffin has made great strides since training camp began.

“I can see a big improvement from the start when he came out here the first day to where he is now,” Mike Shanahan said. “You can see he is in football shape and there hasn’t been a setback so everything has been very positive.”

Richard Rys of The Philly Post likes LeSean McCoy’s fantasy prospects:

Did you see that 21-yard run against the Panthers? The one where he shook a guy so hard that he fell down twice? Then juked a gang of three more defenders? Preseason, playoffs, a dirt field across from your momma’s house — doesn’t matter where it happened. The man has highlight potential every time he touches the ball. McCoy’s days as the most underrated back in the league appear to be over; one Yahoo fantasy expert ranks him number three overall, behind only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. He’s the real fantasy prize of this Eagles team. Go all in.

COMING UP

We’ll take a closer look at the roster and examine Kelly’s role in dealing with the defense.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Clay Harbor And Life On the Bubble

Philadelphia Eagles TE Clay Harbor.It is number-crunching season in the NFL. Teams are in the process of whittling their rosters from 90 all the way down to 53. By the time the August 31 deadline hits, nearly 1,200 players across the league will have lost their jobs. A reminder that this is a harsh business.

“I think Billy Davis made the point.  Billy got cut in his one tryout with the Dolphins,” said Chip Kelly, who didn’t have to deal with anything quite like this in college.  “That is the only time you get cut, and you remember that for the rest of your life.  We have to do it, that’s part of our job, but I think we were conscious of that.  We sat down with everybody [during the first round of cuts].  Our coordinators all sat down with everybody.  Our position coach sat down with them. It’s a difficult time.”

The Eagles have their 53-man pretty well figured out by this point, but Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets allows players on the bubble one last chance to make their pitch to management. Clay Harbor gets to make that pitch from two different positions. He will play the first half at wide receiver, and the second half as tight end.

“I’m hoping that’s what gives me a shot to make the roster here. I feel like I can do a lot of different things. I can play wide receiver, I can play tight end or the H-back role and play special teams,” he said. “I think that’s my shot right there. If I’m going to make it, I’m going to be doing a lot of different things.”

Harbor made the transition from receiver to tight end in college and was good enough to be drafted in the fourth round by the Eagles in 2010. He played end for the Eagles from 2010-12, collecting 46 receptions for 421 yards and four touchdowns over that time.

The tight end spot is jammed with three quality players in Brent Celek, James Casey and Zach Ertz. Harbor has been trying his luck elsewhere. He moved over to linebacker during practice briefly, and most recently has been seeing snaps at receiver.

“I think it’s a positive that teams can see that I can line up out wide and get open against cornerbacks. I think when you can do that as a tight end it really shows teams that you’re an athletic player, you can stretch a defense and you can do things that s ome tight ends can’t,” said Harbor. “I think I’m playing the best football I’ve ever played, I’m the most confident I’ve ever been. Physically I’m the best player I’ve ever been. That being said, I think this is the first time that I think there is a really good chance that I’m not going to make this team. All I can do now is go out Thursday, play to the best of my ability and let the cards fall where they may.”

As for his chances of making the team?

“If they decide to keep four [tight ends] I’ll be here, if they decide to keep three I think I’ll get released,” said Harbor. “For me it’s 50-50 right now. That’s the way I see it.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Bryce Brown dodges a major injury, talks ball security.

Sheil breaks down the offensive and defensive performance from Saturday’s game.

The battle between Nate Allen and Earl Wolff for the final starting safety spot could come down to the wire. 

Kapadia takes a closer look at that safety situation.

A few leftovers from Saturday’s locker room session in Jacksonville.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Peter King says the Eagles could run 1,200 offensive plays this season, more than the 2012 Patriots.

Of the 45 snaps Michael Vick orchestrated, only one came with the play clock inside five seconds. Mostly, Vick snapped with between about 21 and 15 seconds left on the 40-second clock. There was an 11-play no-huddle sequence late in the first-quarter on a Philly field goal drive; Vick ran twice on it, and jogged back to the line each time, getting the play call in the helmet and snapping the next play each time with the play clock in the teens. The guy’s got to be in fabulous shape. Now, Vick threw two brainlock passes during the game—one an interception, one while he was going down for a sack that was the classic careless Vick we’ve seen at times in his star-crossed career. And this was probably his worst offensive performance of the three preseason games, though his numbers were good.

Jimmy Kempski writes that Vick was holding onto the ball even longer than usual against the Jags.

Last Saturday in Jacksonville, Michael Vick held onto the ball an average of 3.66 seconds per dropback. Kelly was asked about Vick holding onto the ball before practice this morning.

“There was just a couple, but I thought there was great coverage,” said Kelly. “A couple of those were seven-man protections, so we didn’t have everybody out there. There were 3-man routes and Jacksonville wasn’t blitzing, but those guys were in great coverage. Part of being a great QB is making great decisions, so if people are covered I’d rather our quarterback hold onto the ball than release the ball.”

19 of Vick’s 30 dropbacks took at least 3 seconds before he either got the ball out, got sacked, or got to the line of scrimmage on a scramble. I highly doubt the Jaguars’ coverage was that good.

COMING UP

Chip Kelly speaks at 9:30. Practice to follow. We’ll bring you the latest.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Assessing the Safety Situation

Earl WolffHowie Roseman stood on the field at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. and was perfectly honest about the difficulties he’d had in finding players at one specific position.

“To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties,” Roseman said back in January at the Senior Bowl. “The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.”

Roseman wasn’t lying. And Sunday’s release of Kenny Phillips served as just another reminder of how this franchise has struggled to address the safety position since it lost Brian Dawkins back in 2009.

That year, Quintin Mikell, Macho Harris, Sean Jones and Quintin Demps all saw snaps. Mikell was easily the best of the group.

In 2010, it was Mikell, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Jamar Adams.

2011? Coleman, Allen, Jarrad Page and Jaiquawn Jarrett.

And last year, Coleman, Allen, Anderson and David Sims.

Eleven guys in four seasons. None good enough to be penciled in to the starting lineup in 2013.

The position has changed, as teams expect versatility from their safeties. The athleticism and cover skills to match up with slot receivers. The size to take on tight ends, play the run and be an enforcer over the middle. The speed to play center field and serve as the last line of defense.

Teams around the league are having trouble finding suitable options, so it’s unlikely the Eagles find legitimate help when cuts are made in the next week. There’s been a little buzz about Bills safety Jairus Byrd, but it still seems unlikely that he gets dealt. Byrd is reportedly looking to become the highest-paid safety in the league.

On the current roster, it looks like Patrick Chung will start at one spot. Nate Allen is the favorite to run with Chung, but he’s entrenched firmly in “believe it when we see it” territory. Allen has shown little this summer to suggest he’s suddenly ready to make the leap.

Rookie Earl Wolff rotated in with Allen on Saturday, but might not be ready. If the coaches feel the competition is close, Wolff could get the nod. Or he could get a shot later in the season.

Chip Kelly has placed an emphasis on special teams, and Colt Anderson is the team’s best special-teams player. That should be enough to earn him a roster spot. Kurt Coleman isn’t a bad backup option, but he’s on the bubble. And David Sims is likely a longshot.

Another year where fans will likely watch on Sundays and hope for an offseason upgrade. There’s a good possibility that next January in Mobile, Roseman will be answering the same question once again.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles cut Phillips and Jamar Chaney yesterday.

The Birds also let 10 other players go.

The No-22 breakdown of what we saw from the offense vs. Jacksonville.

Good stuff from T-Mac on why the offense looked different.

Kelly said the Eagles were their own worst enemy Saturday.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Things do not look good for former Eagle Kevin Kolb:

 

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers some day-after thoughts on Michael Vick’s performance:

One of the areas where Vick made things worse is his desire for bigger chunks of yards. I re-watched the 1st quarter last night and there were several chances for him to check the ball down. Vick instead threw the ball to intermediate targets. There is no question that Vick was holding onto the ball longer last night. Maybe Vick wanted to put on a show after being named the starter. I don’t know. He needs to back to the previous games and play within himself and within the offense. Keep the ball moving and the chunk plays will come.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and check out practice at the Linc.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: 5 Players To Focus On

0V3J7988The third and most important preseason game is almost upon us. Saturday’s game in Jacksonville will be the final tune-up for the starting units before the season opener against the Redskins. It also represents some players’ last chance to impress the coaches before the roster gets trimmed to 75 on Tuesday. (The number goes all the way down to 53 by Aug. 31.)

Here are five Eagles that we’ll be paying close attention to:

Kenny Phillips

Phillips took part in the team walkthrough on Thursday and said he “likes his chances” of playing Saturday in Jacksonville. The veteran safety has been slowed by a quad strain recently. The bigger issue for him is his history of knee issues.

“At the end of the day they kind of leave it in my hands,” said Phillips. “As much as I want to go out there and play I have to be smart. We still have one more preseason game left (beyond Saturday) so if I don’t have a chance to play this week I definitely have next week.

“The biggest thing is they want me to be healthy so when I am out there I can put some good things on tape. I’m definitely pressing the issue because I definitely want to get out there and show them exactly what I [can] do.”

Given the state of the safety position, the Eagles would love Phillips to show them something. But it has to happen soon.

Trent Cole/Brandon Graham

The Eagles are lacking experience at the outside linebacker position in a pretty big way. Connor Barwin has played the position but the two other key contributors — Cole and Graham — are green. The other potential option at OLB — Chris McCoy — has not played a regular-season snap at this level.

Can they get by with what they have, or do they need to go onto the open market?

“You know, they’re learning,” said Chip Kelly. “I think Connor Barwin has great experience at that position because he’s played here before and I’ve been really impressed with Trent and Brandon as they come along, but you always want more depth no matter what position you’re at.  You’d like to have another guy or two there that you can count on.  But there’s want‑to‑haves and need‑to‑haves, and again, it depends on what’s available.”

Danny Watkins

Watkins has returned to action following a concussion and is expected to play against the Jaguars. In the preseason opener versus the Patriots, he played right guard with the second team.

Todd Herremans missed some time this week with knee inflammation. Allen Barbre apparently worked with the first unit in his absence instead of Watkins, and could get the start against the Jags if Herremans can’t go.

Is Watkins in the team’s plans? The guess here is that he makes it, but I don’t know that it’s a sure thing. Curious to see how he looks Saturday.

Russell Shepard

Shepard enjoyed a strong camp (particularly early) but only has one grab for four yards (on six targets) in preseason play. He might be right on the bubble. Do the Eagles carry both Greg Salas and Shepard? Just one? If so, can Shepard win the job?

Perhaps Saturday’s game will help influence management’s decision.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kelly says time of possession “is how much time can the other team waste.”

Vick ranked No. 1 in the team’s offseason program.

Another great play breakdown by Sheil, this one on the Eagles’ latest triple option. 

Vick says he “will be a threat” to run in the Eagles’ offense.

Jason Peters is bullish on this offense.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN.com has DeSean Jackson ranked as the 16th best player in the NFC East.

When he has the ball in his hands, he’s a threat to go the distance from anywhere on the field. The issue with Jackson the past few years has been an inability to consistently get open, and it’s fair to assume the inconsistent quarterback play the Eagles have had in recent seasons has factored in as well. Jackson hasn’t had a 60-catch season since 2009 or a 1,000-yard season since 2010, and he’s only scored six touchdowns, total, the past two years. But the ability is clearly there to do big things. And if Kelly can find a way to get Jackson the ball, there’s still a chance to see that potential translate into a big-numbers wide receiver year the likes of which we’ve been anticipating from Jackson since he arrived in the league.

Les Bowen notes that Lane Johnson hasn’t looked very “raw” despite having that label coming out of college.

“If he was, he’s not anymore,” left guard Evan Mathis said yesterday…

Johnson heard all the “raw” talk, and was acutely aware that he lacked an extensive offensive-line background.

“You’re going into a new environment, there’s going to be new tests, but once you get into the fire, it’s not as bad as what it seems,” he said.

COMING UP

Travel day for the Eagles. We’ll be checking in live from Jacksonville.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: High Expectations For Peters

It’s been more than 19 months since Jason Peters last played in a football game.

But he’ll take the field Saturday night in Jacksonville in what essentially amounts to a three-quarter dress rehearsal before the regular-season opener against the Redskins on Sept. 9.

Asked what his expectations are for a now-healthy offensive line, Peters said: “Try to be the best, try to give up the least sacks ever in Eagles history. That’s the first goal. And try to get a championship. We’ve got an athletic line, and if we come together, we’re gonna win games because it’s gonna start with us.”

The 31-year-old injured and re-injured his Achilles last offseason, but looked good during spring and summer practices before dealing with a hamstring issue. He’s now back at practice and says he’s feeling no lingering effects from the injuries.

As things currently stand, the Eagles are expected to go into the opener with a line of Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson. With the guys up front healthy and a new scheme in place, Peters is expecting big things from Michael Vick.

“It definitely fits his skill set because it’s a read-option offense,” Peters said. “You read defensive ends, the tackles. You’re reading linebackers, a run/pass offense. So it fits Mike real well.

“I view Mike as a Pro Bowler. You see what he did when he had his offensive line. He got the big contract, went to the Pro Bowl. If you ain’t got your offensive line as a quarterback, your play’s gonna drop a little bit, so that’s what happened last year. He didn’t have his offensive line, he was fumbling the ball, and that all comes with not having your starters protecting you. So I’ll evaluate him as Mike… if we give him time, he’s gonna make plays.”

The veteran left tackle anticipates a monster year out of LeSean McCoy too.

“He’s definitely gonna be over 1,000 yards earlier than he has been because the defensive line, the linebackers are going to be winded,” Peters said. “We steady gonna be pushing on the D-Line, so I think he’s gonna break out early this year.”

As for the offense as a whole, Peters expects the Eagles to have an advantage early in the season. Teams don’t know quite what to expect out of Chip Kelly in his first year. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he’s “looked at endless film” of Oregon to prepare for the Week 1 matchup.

Asked if he thought the Eagles’ offense would surprise opponents, Peters said: “I think they’re gonna be shocked. As the year goes on, people are gonna try to game-plan for it and get adjusted to it. But they’re gonna be shocked the first couple weeks, coming at ‘em quick, fast. We’re gonna see.”

Kelly will have to make adjustments throughout the season, but his chances of success increase greatly with a healthy left tackle in Peters.

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac answers four pressing questions about the secondary.

Billy Davis updated several of the starter battles on defense.

Could the Eagles surprise in 2013? A roundup of what the national media are saying.

Tim revisits the details of Vick’s contract.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com catches up with Bennie Logan:

Logan, who can also play nose guard, will almost certainly start at some point this season and will definitely get snaps in the rotation, but another good showing Saturday night against the Jags — and any slippage on Thornton’s part — could accelerate the rookie’s entry into the starting lineup.

“Every game is my ultimate showcase,” Logan said. “My first game was to get the jitters out, second game I’m comfortable, I know the scheme, I know what I’m doing. Last two games is really where you put the stamp on everything, from OTAs, minicamps, and just show the coaches what you’re able to do and just go from there and leave it to the coaches to make the decision.”

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers some thoughts for the upcoming season:

While I do think the Eagles can have a winning record and do some good things this year, that isn’t to say I think they’ll be a flat out good team. The Eagles will be flawed. The defense needs work. I’m sure there will be some issues with the offense. You never know what will happen on STs. And Chip Kelly will be adjusting to the NFL. He will make a couple of mistakes, on gameday or in how he handles some of the crazy situations that pop up.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly this morning and some players this afternoon.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Revisiting Michael Vick’s Contract

JJF_6641Now that we know Michael Vick is the starting quarterback, let’s take a look at what it means for Vick and the team from a financial perspective.

The 33-year-old’s restructured deal is for one year with a potential value of $10 million, though things will have to go very well for him to see all of that money.

He received a signing bonus of $3.5 million. Another $3.5 becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster at the start of the regular season. So he’ll make a minimum of $7 million this year.

There is an additional $3 million in incentives. PFT has the breakdown:

He can earn a $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses; he gets $31,250 for each game he’s on the 53-man roster.  Vick gets another $1.5 million if he participates in 90 percent of the offensive snaps, and $1 million if the Eagles win the Super Bowl (and if he plays in it).

The play-time incentive has lower levels, with $1.2 available if he participates in 80 percent of the snaps, $900,000 if Vick participates in 70 percent of the snaps, $700,000 for 60 percent of the snaps, and $500,000 for 50 percent.  The amounts aren’t cumulative; he gets one payment based on his total playing time.  Also, the Super Bowl bonus has lower levels, with smaller payments based on postseason season.  The maximum available is $1 million, if the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

If Vick is on the 53-man for the entire season, the overall number bumps up to $7.5 million. The rest is tied to snaps played and postseason success.

As for snatching that additional $1.5 for participating in 90 percent of the snaps?

In other words, don’t bank on it.

In case you’re wondering, Nick Foles is making a base salary of $500,000 this season.  Matt Barkley is pulling in just over $400,000. The Eagles are an estimated $20 million under the cap.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Vick gets a vote of confidence in the locker room.

The QB says “sometimes you need to be pushed.”

Foles wants to remain with the Eagles despite missing out of the starting job.

Sheil offers three thoughts on the QB decision.

My stab at projecting the 53-man roster.

A check in to see how the Eagles’ rookie draft class is faring.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Phil Sheridan gives his take on Vick being named the starter.

The decision can be seen as both obvious — Vick has more experience, more accomplishments, and a skill set better suited to Kelly’s offense — and somewhat puzzling. Kelly has said he wants to win right away, but it is likely to take him a season or two to rebuild the Eagles from the wreckage of 4-12 into a Super Bowl contender.

In that case, going with the younger Foles would seem to make more sense.

Tommy Lawlor also weighs in:

The point I have to make here is that if Vick was truly a great player, the results would be there. Tom Brady has played in 3 different offenses with the Patriots and has changed his game each time. Peyton Manning built his career with elite skill players, but in 2009 he was surrounded by mediocre talent and took his game to a new level. Peyton was handed lemons and turned them into a Super Bowl appearance.

Vick is a great physical talent, but he’s not a great QB. Never was, never will be…in the NFL. He might have a breakout season in 2013, but if you need the right coach, the right blocking and the right system in order to be good…you aren’t a truly great player. Those guys have a way of lifting everything around them. Vick, at his very best, is still a notch below that.

COMING UP

Practice at 11:30. Billy Davis will speak to reporters before then.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Rookie Status Report

Zach ErtzToday, we check in on the rookies. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of what we’ve seen from each guy, along with projections going forward.

Lane Johnson – The whole “raw” label hasn’t shown up much in the first two preseason games. Based on early returns, Johnson has a chance to be a beast in the run game right away. There have been some issues in pass protection, but Johnson has held up fine in that aspect too. He’s athletic, hustles and will start at right tackle from Day One. An encouraging camp and preseason for the No. 4 overall pick.

Zach Ertz – Four catches for 46 yards on five targets through two preseason games. Ertz has played 42 snaps per PFF; he’s gone out into pass routes on 62 percent of those. The second-round pick will have to prove himself as a blocker, but he’s a polished route-runner who will have a role in the passing game right away. Look for Ertz to be a nice option in the red zone. He’ll play big snaps from the get-go.

Bennie Logan – He’s been a pleasant surprise. Logan always figured to have a place in the defensive line rotation, but so far he looks like one of the Eagles’ best players up front. Opposing offensive linemen have had a tough time controlling Logan in the run game, and he’s been effective as a pass-rusher too. The third-round pick will be coached to make use of those 34-inch arms and get in the passing lanes. Chip Kelly has said he’ll probably play six defensive linemen in the regular season. If Logan keeps showing up on tape, he’ll play plenty of snaps right away.

Matt Barkley – Expectations varied when the Eagles drafted him, but Barkley’s pretty much performed at the level of a fourth-round pick. In other words, he’s been up and down. Kelly likes how Barkley gets rid of the ball quickly, but the rookie QB has set his receivers up for dangerous hits on too many occasions. He’s never really been a part of the QB competition this summer and will likely spend Year 1 on the sidelines.

Earl Wolff – A bit of a mystery. The safety from N.C. State has gotten some reps with the first team in practice, but he didn’t get into Thursday night’s game until the second half. Patrick Chung has one of the safety spots locked down, but the other one is up for grabs. Nate Allen has started both preseason games. Wolff has a chance to make his move, but the guess here is he’ll start the season as a backup.

Joe Kruger – He’s only 21-years-old and unlikely to contribute in his first season. The question with Kruger is: Will he make the 53-man roster? If the Eagles really like his potential and think he might get snatched up by another team, they could keep him and make him a regular inactive. But stashing him on the practice squad is a real possibility.

David King – If the practice and preseason rotations are any indication, he’s going to have a tough time making the roster. The seventh-round pick hasn’t flashed much and has been passed by undrafted free agent Damion Square on the depth chart.

Jordan Poyer – Some thought the Eagles got a steal with Poyer in the seventh round, but the Oregon State product has had a quiet summer. The Eagles are thin at cornerback, so Poyer’s got a chance to sneak on the roster. But he hasn’t done much to stand out so far.

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Among the undrafted guys, Square and linebacker Jake Knott seem like good bets to make the roster. Square figures to add depth on the defensive line, and Knott should be one of the backups behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

Other names to watch are Michael Bamiro, Russell Shepard and Matthew Tucker. Bamiro is a developmental tackle prospect. He seemed to draw some interest from other teams back in July, so the Eagles might not want to risk losing him by going the practice squad route.

Shepard started off great, but has been quiet in the preseason games and could be headed for the practice squad. Tucker could claim a spot just because Felix Jones has been unimpressive. But the Eagles could choose to add a running back from another team instead.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A detailed “tape” review of how the Eagles used the zone read/bubble screen packaged play on multiple occasions vs. Carolina.

O-Line wisdom has been passed down from Tra Thomas to Todd Herremans and now to Lane Johnson, writes T-Mac.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News talked to wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell about the team’s option routes:

“You always have some West Coast plays in your concepts, and we have all those,” wide-receivers coach Bob Bicknell said. “But there’s also more chances for guys to kind of read coverage, read how they’re getting covered and make plays off of the leverage of the defender or whether they’re playing man or zone. “I think that’s what’s a little bit different in this offense. We have option routes where guys have an ability to understand what we’re trying to get, where other people are, and where they have a chance to win and get open.”

Derek Sarley of IgglesBlog suggests preseason defenses haven’t shown much yet against Kelly:

Right now, Chip’s offense is being greatly helped by the passivity of the defenses he’s facing. For months, we read stories about how every defensive staff in the league was studying ways to beat spread option looks, and yet so far we haven’t seen anything all that innovative beyond some rotations by the Patriots to mess up the reads with different edge defenders.It’s going to take some time before the league fully understands everything Kelly’s trying to do, but I’ll be shocked if our week one opponent — a team that has more than a passing familiarity with these same offensive concepts — isn’t ready with a big bag of tricks we aren’t seeing yet.

COMING UP

We’ll be back at NovaCare, talking to Kelly and several players today.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: From Tra To Todd To Lane

Lane JohnsonPrior to the draft, Tra Thomas was asked to pick between the top three tackles in the class: Did he prefer Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel or Lane Johnson?

“I definitely would take Lane Johnson,” Thomas, now a coaching intern with the Eagles, told 97.5 The Fanatic. “I’ve watched all of these guys. I’ve watched their personal workouts, I’ve watched some game film on them.

“When I look at Johnson, he can play left and he can play right. He’s an athletic guy. I’ve watched him play: he’s got long arms, great athletic ability and I think because he has experience playing at that right side, he’s a perfect fit.”

As it turned out, Fisher went No. 1 to the Chiefs, Joeckel went second to the Jaguars and Johnson landed with the Eagles at 4. Now that he works with him every day, what is his assessment of the rookie?

“He’s been everything that we expected out of him,” Thomas  said. “You can definitely see that he was the better pick out of those top three tackles that came in. He’s been a really good addition to the group.”

Thomas’ knowledge and experience is being passed down to the 6-6, 303-pound Johnson, both directly and indirectly. The former 11th overall pick was the starting left tackle in Philly from 1998-2008, going to three Pro Bowls in that span. Todd Herremans worked directly to Thomas’ right from ’06-08. Herremans is now working directly to Johnson’s left. The rookie has been leaning on Herremans for guidance, and Herremans has been leaning on his time with Thomas as he mentors the newcomer.

“I use my reference with Tra a lot because I played next to Tra for a long time and I thought that we were pretty productive on the left side,” said Herremans. “With Tra being out here helping us, it’s really easy to roll it over. So a lot of times I’ll flash back to what me and Tra did for certain things, and he’s really receptive to it.”

“With Todd next to me — a very smart player, he knows when things are coming — he helps me out a lot,” said Johnson.

The Oklahoma product graded out higher than any other Eagles’ lineman against the Patriots and put together a solid performance overall versus the Panthers as well. So far, so good for Thomas’ pre-draft pick.

“The good news is we haven’t talked about a rookie right tackle much,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.  “Usually when you don’t talk about the linemen, it’s a good thing.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Nick Foles is looking to bounce back, while Dennis Kelly‘s rehabbing to get his back right.

Eagles-Panthers game review, courtesy of Sheil. You can read his breakdown of the offense here and the defense here.

Jason Peters plans on suiting up against the Jaguars.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jeff McLane writes that Kelly’s simplified system is helping Michael Vick.

“The whole thing is designed to really take what the defense is giving you. It’s pretty clear-cut for the most part usually what [Vick] should do with the ball,” Kelce said. “It’s pretty simple and that’s something this offense has to be with the tempo it runs at.

“You can’t make this whole, complex ordeal out there. You just have to go with the play and trust that it’s going to be the right one, and if it’s not, we’re going to come at you two, three seconds later with another one.”

Doug Farrar of SI.com writes that the play-fake element of Kelly’s offense is what made life tough for Carolina on Thursday.

“I’m not sure if it was as much tiring as much as we probably overplayed the play action and it’s all part of it,” [Panthers coach Ron] Rivera said. “It stymies your pass rush. One of the things that you can’t do is you can’t allow that play-action to [stop] you doing your assignment. We started watching the mesh point a little bit too much, in my opinion. I’ll get an opportunity to see it on tape but I really thought that we were letting it freeze us a little too much and they did some really nice things. This is assignment football when you play a team like this.”

The mesh point, to be specific, is the point in the play where the quarterback either hands off to the running back or decides to keep it himself. Kelly likes to move the mesh point around, which is a common concept among the best play action, read-option and Pistol offenses. Against the Panthers, the Eagles especially benefited from this idea when running back LeSean McCoy was in the game in the first half, setting up his usual array of ankle-breaking cuts in space. Once the Eagles had the Panthers on a course to look for McCoy above all as a matter of survival, often leaving linebacker Luke Kuechly to spy on the quarterback, the pursuit issues began. However, the great thing about these “option action” ideas is that if everyone’s on the same page, you don’t have to be superstars to pull it off.

Coming up

Day off for the Birds. We’ll get you your fix.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Kelly’s Offense Has Players Abuzz

LeSean McCoySeveral of the Eagles’ offensive players had seen or heard about Chip Kelly before he became their head coach.

They adjusted to the new scheme, the new practice methods and the new environment in the spring and then the summer. They knew Kelly had great success at Oregon, but they didn’t know exactly how his philosophies would translate to the NFL.

There are tweaks and and adjustments and wrinkles, but many of the basic concepts – tempo, options, taking advantage of the numbers – are the same. And through two preseason games, the players are buying in.

“I haven’t been this excited about football in a long time,” said center Jason Kelce. “The whole way the offense is structured and the scheming and all the stuff we are doing, it’s really exciting to see where we are going to go.”

Added Todd Herremans: “There’s definitely a buzz. We’re very excited about the way things have been going, but I think even back in the OTAs, we kind of had a feeling like, ‘Wow, this could really turn out well.’ But we’ve still got a lot of things we can cover and get better at. We’ve got a couple weeks to do that.”

LeSean McCoy missed the first preseason game, but he looked like a natural in the Eagles’ new offense, carrying eight times for 47 yards and catching three balls for 16.

McCoy was one of Andy Reid’s biggest supporters, but the Eagles’ running back realized in the spring that he was going to have fun in the new scheme, which by all accounts will rely on a heavy dose of the running game. McCoy described the offense as a “track meet” during OTAs. And now he’s seeing the results of the tempo.

“It was crazy because I saw how tired the defense was,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wow. Imagine if this were four quarters of this type of tempo.’ So it just shows you how effective the offense will be.

“I think when you run the ball enough, they don’t know what’s coming. And we’re so spread out where we can run, it can be a run play that turns into a pass. Every question teams want to ask us, we have the answers for. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

The Eagles only put up 14 points, but the offense looked sharp in the first half, moving the ball up and down the field for 257 yards. There were also two turnovers, an issue that plagued this team in 2012. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of satisfaction, but a legitimate excitement of the possibilities in the months ahead.

“I think as a whole, as an offense, I mean, I think we should have had way more points on the board,” McCoy said. “In the first half, just small, mental mistakes, turnovers, which killed us for the last two years. I think we’ve had enough of that and it’s time to really change it. So I think as an offense, we need even more work.”

Kelly, of course, would agree. But through two preseason games, he has his guys buying in.

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac has the Michael Vick/Nick Foles quarterback breakdown.

Post-game observations on what we saw from the Eagles’ starters.

Phillip Hunt had surgery to repair a torn ACL Thursday.

A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

In his Twitter mailbag, McManus looks at the way Fletcher Cox is being used.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com weighs in on the Eagles’ interceptions:

All interceptions are not created equal. Vick threw one on the last play of the first half, but it came on a desperate heave after he sprinted left a step ahead of the Panthers’ pressure. Foles’ pick was a result of a physical mistake — fumbling a shotgun snap — and a mental one — failing to throw the ball high enough through the end zone. Turnovers were a huge problem for both QBs last year and will weigh heavily in Kelly’s evaluations.

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com offers some post-game thoughts:

Michael Vick may have put this QB competition to bed tonight, after going 9 for 9, before throwing a meaningless interception at the end of the first half. Vick has thrown a grand total of 2 incompletions in the preseason, and has basically come out and taken command of the Eagles’ starting QB job. Chip Kelly was once again non-committal after the game tonight, but we’re nearing the point where Vick has begun to pull away.

COMING UP

Off day for the players, but we’ll have more thoughts and reaction from the game.

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