Eagles Wake-Up Call: Will Boykin Get a Shot?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Towards the end of last year, Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked about the way he handled Brandon Boykin’s playing time and whether there were ways to get the play-making defensive back more snaps.

“I really think, and I believe this, that one of the reasons that he’s grown like he’s grown and made the plays that he’s making is because we’ve allowed him to specialize and really focus on the nickel position and how to play,” Davis said. “He’s a young player that’s still growing and I think that is one of the things that we’ve done that I’m most happy with. And I understand he’s got a lot of interceptions and second in the league, but I think that’s a product of specialization and really knowing exactly and playing a position with confidence and that’s how you win.” Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Spelling DeMeco

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

The number for DeMeco Ryans last year was 1,156.

That’s how many snaps he played, the most of any linebacker in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.

“I think if you ask DeMeco, he felt as fresh as he’s ever felt in his career,” said Chip Kelly last month. “But I think it’s a byproduct of how we practiced and prepared for him to be that way.”

Ryans is a Kelly favorite – a true professional who practices, trains and studies hard. But the truth is he did play too many snaps last year. And there were a few reasons for that. Number one, Billy Davis was installing a brand new defense and needed someone to direct a young group up front. That was Ryans’ job. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Draft Could Provide CB Upgrade

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at Michigan State

In the past four seasons, the Eagles have had a rotating cast of characters at cornerback.

Starting on the outside have been Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

What you’ll notice about that group is there’s not a lot of homegrown talent. Or more specifically, there’s no homegrown talent. All seven of the cornerbacks listed were either signed as free agents or acquired via trade. Brandon Boykin would be the exception, but he’s been used strictly as a nickel.

Williams and Fletcher were adequate last year, and the team signed Nolan Carroll from Miami. But the team’s cornerback situation is precisely what Howie Roseman is describing when he talks about taking the best available player. The Eagles are OK going into the draft, but they will be looking to upgrade if the picks fall a certain way. Read more »

Big People: Eight Potential Eagles DL Targets

NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Defensive line is an under-the-radar need for the Eagles going into free agency and the draft.

Here’s what we know: The team really likes Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton as 3-4 defensive ends. It would be a surprise if they’re not two of the three starters going into 2014.

But there’s a lot we don’t know. For example, do the Eagles think Bennie Logan is the answer at nose tackle? There’s no doubt they like Logan, but maybe he’s more of a rotational guy who offers versatility and plays DT in sub packages.

There are more question marks with the backups. The Eagles want to rotate bodies up front, but they just didn’t have enough talent to do a ton of that last season. It’ll be a surprise if free agent Clifton Geathers returns. And Damion Square will have to battle for a roster spot next summer.

As we mentioned yesterday, it’s no guarantee that Vinny Curry returns.

Keeping all that in mind, look for the Eagles to add bodies and competition up front in the coming months. The “big people beat up little people” motto is especially true on the defensive line.

When taking a look at the free agent list, here are eight names that caught my eye: Read more »

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You know the drill. Here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

48 - That’s the Eagles’ big-play differential in 2013. STATS, Inc. describes big plays as rushes that go for more than 10 yards and passes that go for more than 25 yards. The Eagles finished with a +48 differential, tops in the league. On offense, they had 122 big plays, first in the NFL. Perhaps most impressive was the Eagles’ balance. Their 74 big run plays were first; and so were there 48 big pass plays.

Defensively, the Eagles allowed 74 big plays, which ranked 14th. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On Barwin’s Role

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Connor Barwin was not among the first wave of new players the Eagles signed last offseason.

On the first day of free agency, the team added five new players, three of whom ended up starting games on defense (Isaac Sopoaga, Bradley Fletcher and Patrick Chung).

But with Barwin, the Eagles waited to see how the market played out. They had him on their list, but Howie Roseman wasn’t sure what the demand would be for the outside linebacker. Barwin followed up an 11.5-sack season in 2011 with just three sacks in 2012. Clearly, teams were not convinced he was an elite pass-rusher, and so the Eagles saw a chance to pounce, signing the 26-year-old to a deal that included $8 million in guaranteed money.

Barwin ended up being one of the Eagles’ best free-agent acquisitions. He provided leadership, energy and was by all accounts a great teammate. In terms of production, he was arguably the Eagles’ most consistent defender. Read more »

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

USATSI_nick-foles-pro-bowl-hands-Kirby Lee-USA-TODAY-Sports

You know the drill. Here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

4 – The number of “close” interceptions by Nick Foles in 2013, as charted by Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders (via ESPN Insider). We know that Foles only threw two interceptions in 317 pass attempts during the regular season for a ridiculously low rate of 0.6 percent. But a fair question is: How much of that was luck, and how much of that was good decision-making?

Per Kascmar’s research, Foles didn’t need a lot of luck in this category. He charted zero dropped interceptions by opponents. The four close INTs included: one that DeSean Jackson broke up against the Cardinals; one that was negated by a questionable holding penalty against Arizona; and one against Green Bay where two defenders ran into each other. Read more »

Three Eagles Leftovers

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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.” Read more »

Rookie Review: How the 2013 Class Fared

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

When asked how happy he was with the Eagles’ rookies this year, Chip Kelly offered a typical Chip Kelly response.

“It’s my favorite draft class for the Philadelphia Eagles,” said the head coach, sarcastically.

“I mean, I was really happy. I’m really, really happy with our young guys. I think they’ve all got really bright futures here. But is that going to happen every year? It’s a catch-22 because if it’s happened every year, then the top of your roster is not what it’s supposed to be. So if each year we’re bringing in 10 or 12 brand new guys and there’s only 46 guys active, they’re taking 10 or 12 guys that were on the team last year. So at some point in time, you hope you’re at a point in time when we’re not having anybody make the team as a young player because the older players we’ve got in place are doing a great job and we’re winning a ton of football games and we’re competing for championships. There’s that catch-22.

“But I think there was a lot of turnover early. I think that’s understandable. It’s a new coaching staff and new systems in every aspect of the game, so that part is a little bit different. But if we’re bringing in 10, 12 new faces every year, then that means we’re not where we need to be right now.”

Keeping that in mind, below is a player-by-player look at how the Eagles’ rookies performed in 2013 and what their outlooks are going forward. Read more »

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