Some Details From the EJ Manuel Workout

The Eagles held a private workout for quarterback EJ Manuel Thursday in Tallahassee, FL.

Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was the lone team representative, per a source. The entire session was taped, so others in the organization will have a good understanding of how everything played out.

Manuel spent 40 minutes to an hour on the field throwing to stationary receivers. The former Florida State signal-caller was asked to make plenty of throws on the run. Lazor and Manuel also spent an hour in the film room going over tape.

The overall sense is that Manuel impressed in his two hours with Lazor.

He will work out for Cincinnati tomorrow and Cleveland next week. More details to come in Manuel’s weekly diary.

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Draft Buzz: Geno Smith’s Journey; Mayock On Manuel

With the draft exactly five weeks away, here are some links and notes worth your time…

Much of the recent conversation in Philadelphia has centered around West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Jeffrey Lurie explained why he felt it was necessary to attend Smith’s workout in Morgantown, alongside Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman.

If the Eagles do take Smith with the No. 4 overall pick, they’re expecting him to be the face of the franchise. And while on-field performance comes first, personality and character count as well – especially at quarterback. For some background on where Smith comes from and what his background is like, take a look at this feature from Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com.

But when it was over, after a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29, Smith sat dejected on the bus back to the hotel while Spavital tried to tell him what he had meant to West Virginia. Smith didn’t appear to be listening.

“Man, I thought I was playing pretty well,” Smith told him. “But going 7-6 makes me feel like I did nothing this year.”

Spavital, who’s now at Texas A&M, has coached Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum. Spavital says Smith is more prepared for the NFL than any other quarterback he has coached. Smith will surprise people, he said, in part because he can do so many things he wasn’t asked to do the last two seasons at West Virginia.

There’s still the question of whether Smith will even be there at No. 4. It seems unlikely that Andy Reid would take him with the first pick (despite what he says), but Jacksonville and Oakland are still possibilities.

From Don Banks of SI.com:

[Gus] Bradley also echoed what I’ve started hearing a bit from league sources, that Jacksonville was much more impressed with Smith last week than it was prepared to be. Both in his workout and in their one-on-one time. Again, it could be a smoke screen, and the Jaguars have plenty of other needs to address with their first pick. But I wouldn’t dismiss Smith in Jacksonville just yet.

Even if the Eagles don’t take Smith in the first round, they could draft a QB at some point. Arizona’s Matt Scott had an official visit to Philadelphia, and according to Anthony Gimino of the Tuscon Citizen, Kelly made Scott a scholarship offer after he had already committed to Arizona.

“I didn’t really have any interest at that time in changing my decision,” Scott told the paper.

The other name to keep an eye on is Florida State’s EJ Manuel. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock recently had some positive things to say about Manuel.

“I think he’s a better prospect than Christian Ponder was two years ago with more upside,” Mayock said, per NFL.com.

“In all honesty, I had Ponder a second-round guy and Minnesota took him pretty high, and the jury is still out there. I think this kid (Manuel) has better arm talent, he’s a bigger, more physical specimen and really his ceiling is higher. Now, I don’t know if his floor is as high, but his ceiling is higher.”

Mayock has Manuel listed as his second-best quarterback behind Smith, and he said during a Sirius XM interview that he believes three QBs will be taken in the first round. If he’s right, there’s a good chance Manuel might not even be there when the Eagles select in the second round.

But not everyone’s sold. Here’s Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com on Manuel:

As T-Mac reported earlier this week, the Eagles have scheduled a March 28 workout with Manuel in Tallahassee.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles To Work Out Manuel; Jason Peters Update

PHOENIX — Plenty to come on Chip Kelly‘s hour-plus session with reporters at the coaches breakfast this morning.

First to some news that came out of it:

Kelly confirmed that the Eagles will hold a private workout with quarterback EJ Manuel. According to his agent, it will take place on Thursday the 28th in Tallahassee. Manuel, who held his pro day at Florida State on Tuesday, also has workouts scheduled with Buffalo (Saturday) and Jacksonville (Monday).

“I like EJ. I knew him coming out of high school, I thought he had a really good  career at Florida State,” said Kelly. “Big, tall, physical athletic specimen. We’re still in the process of evaluating everybody, and EJ is certainly somebody we are excited about evaluating.”

Kelly said he didn’t have a firm grasp of next week’s schedule and wasn’t sure if he would be in attendance, but said quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor will definitely be there.

Jason Peters should be available when the Eagles begin practicing, Kelly said. The first three-day minicamp, allotted to teams with new head coaches,  is expected to be held in the third week of April.

Peters is coming off two Achilles ruptures.

The EJ Manuel Diaries: Gruden’s QB Camp

Quarterback EJ Manuel is doing a weekly diary here on Birds 24/7 as we count down to the draft. In this installment, he talks about his experience at Jon Gruden‘s quarterback camp, upcoming private workouts, and more.

Last week was definitely a whirlwind, but a great opportunity to network and to get my name and face out there. The week began with an early flight to LA from Ft Lauderdale. From the airport, instantly went to ESPN LA, which is where I appeared on NFL LIVE, NFL32, and Sports Nation. Sports Nation was by far one of the best media events I’ve been a part of.

From there, I went to ESPN Sports Science and began to go through hours and hours of tests and drills. Nonetheless, I killed all of them haha. Should be a very cool show when they begin to air in April. Maybe the Sixers will be giving me a call instead of the Eagles. You’ll have to watch the show to understand what I’m referring to!

From LA, I took a red eye to Orlando that night to do an appearance for EA Sports along with Denard Robinson and Kenjon Barner. They’re both great guys, so we had a lot of fun together. NCAA14 is going to be really nice by the way. From Orlando, I was driven to Tampa to meet with Coach Gruden. I was able to get a workout in that night at the hotel so I was happy to get a little downtime and to be able to get some sleep in a bed instead of a seat on a plane. That next morning, I went to meet with Coach Gruden. It was an awesome learning experience! The biggest thing I wanted out of the visit was to LEARN as much as possible. He showed me a lot of love and really gave me more confidence moving forward into pro day and the draft. Obviously, a lot of what he and I discussed is between us two, but I left Coach Gruden as one of his all time favorites. He was hilarious! Gave me a hard time about the Nike long sleeves I wore versus Va Tech and NIU in the Orange Bowl. I told him I’d help him with his swag once I got drafted. We watched my film for about 3 or 4 hours, but it flew by because I was learning so much. Loved it!

The FFCA stands for Fired Football Coaches of America if you guys didn’t know, and Coach Gruden started this association on his own. I also met Coach Ron Zook during the trip with Gruden as well. The main thing he taught was to start taking full control of my team/offense. The fact that I’ll be in a NFL offense soon gives me a lot to look forward to as far as being able to audible at will, simply because of the extra film study I put in. We had a big responsibility in our offense at FSU as far as declaring protections, hot reads, sight adjusts, getting guys in good positions, etc. All of this before the snap! Overall, it was a GREAT EXPERIENCE with coach! He really valued all of my talents as a quarterback, even saying he wants a QB  he could run any type of play with, any concept, and at any time. Throw it, zone read it, option it, design run it, whatever and however you want it, I’ve done it and have WON doing it!!

Thus far, I have 4 private workouts scheduled, none of the 4 are with Philly but I have no doubt they will be in attendance at my pro day and I’ll get a visit to their facility in Philly! If not, you guys petition for me so I can get the Wings on my helmet come fall! Haha thanks Eagle Nation, until next time!

EJ Manuel

Eagles Wake-Up Call: The EJ Manuel Diaries, Part I

Quarterback EJ Manuel will be doing a weekly diary here on Birds 24/7 as we count down to the draft. It should be a very cool feature and we’re excited to have him.

As it just so happens, his first entry comes on the heels of Mike Mayock declaring Manuel the second best quarterback  in this draft class, moving him past Matt Barkley. That’s where we started the Q&A:

Mike Mayock just put you ahead of Matt Barkley on his board and now has you as the No. 2 QB in the draft. What is your response to that?

EM: The most important thing to me about pre-draft rankings are that they are opinionated. The low rankings only motivated me, so I won’t lose that edge. I liked the doubt, it’s that much sweeter when you prove people wrong. What matters most to me is that I continue to get better, day in and day out throughout this process.

Are there any steps you are taking this offseason to get ready to potentially run the read-option in the NFL?

EM: From the teams I met with, they all know I can orchestrate any type of offense. At Florida State, we ran multiple formations, schemes, pass concepts, run checks, kill checks, and declaration of the protections. The coaches were able to get a sense of my intellect and my football IQ in the meetings, while also seeing what kind of person I am.

How much did coaches and scouts ask you about the read option in Indy, and how did you find the experience at the Combine overall? What stood out?

EM: Not very much, many of the coaches asked me more about declaring mikes and setting protections. Get my offense into positive plays, how I read certain play concepts, and other questions about my background. The running ability is only an added weapon to what I can do and they embraced that.

The combine experience was very unique. Although I wasn’t able to get more than 15 hours of total sleep in 4 days, I enjoyed the moment. Meeting with team officials, getting to know other guys and forming relationships made it priceless. We’ll always look back at the combine as a grind and just another opportunity to show what we could do in front of the biggest audience on one of the biggest stages in this process. I love those moments when everyone is watching! I feel in my comfort zone. Just let it flyyyy!

Plenty more from Manuel moving forward. If you have a question for him let us know and maybe we can get it answered for you.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles will meet with Arizona QB Matt Scott Monday.

Greg Cosell talks about Chip Kelly and the impact of a mobile quarterback.

In the latest Twitter Mailbag, I try to answer questions on Jared Cook, Dee Milliner and more.

Sheil looks at some possible options at nose tackle for the Eagles.

Howie Roseman says the Eagles won’t necessarily hold age against a free agent if he can improve the team’s culture.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN Insider lists the five best fits for Wes Welker. The Eagles are one of them.

System coaches such as Chip Kelly often get typecast as being inflexible when it comes to adjusting their system to the talent on their roster, but Kelly’s history at Oregon indicates he is actually quite adept at altering his approach to the skill set available to him.

…If the Eagles were fortunate enough to sign Welker, Kelly would be able to alter his system to get the most out of Welker’s abilities.

Mayock talks about why he moved Manuel ahead of Barkley:

“The first three tapes I saw of Manuel prior to the Senior Bowl included the Florida game, and that’s probably the worst game he ever played … so I had a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth heading into the Senior Bowl,” Mayock told NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft” on Thursday. “I thought he had a solid Senior Bowl week, and coming out of the combine, I felt like there was a quiet buzz among some of the teams. Not just his workout. More importantly to me, they like the kid, they think he’s smart and in the meeting rooms at night, he passed that test.”

Peter King and some of the other writers over at SI.com did a free-agent fantasy draft. King took OLB Paul Kruger with his first pick.

COMING UP

Four days until free agency opens. We have lots to get to between now and then.

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Could Smith Or Manuel Be a Fit For Kelly?

INDIANAPOLIS — Confidence is big here in Indy.

Ask a draft prospect a series of questions about his abilities, and you’ll likely get the same type of responses.

Q: Are you a pass-rush specialist?
A: No. I feel I can do a great job against the run.

Q: Are you best as an in-the-box safety?
A: Not really. I have the ability to cover.

Q: Is your best asset making plays downfield?
A: Nope. I can be effective over the middle
.

That’s just typically how the Q&A sessions go. Prospects are reluctant to show any signs of perceived weakness. They all say they’re the best at their respective positions and deserve to be first-round picks.

So it should come as no surprise that when West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was asked about potentially playing in an offense that ran the read-option, he said it would be no problem.

“Well, I played in three different systems in college. I’ve also played in the read-option system,” he said. “I had to adapt because coming out of high school, I had no say in that system. So I had to adapt to it. I think that’s something I’ve always been capable of. I think I have the skill set that fits any offense. I can play within the pocket, but I’m athletic enough to run that style of offense.

“Whatever it takes for me to put my team in the best position to win games, that’s what I’ll do, and that’s what I’ve always felt was necessary for me and anyone else to play quarterback. I have the ability to [run the read option]. I don’t think that’s my game. I don’t think my game is predicated around that. If a coach wants me to, I’ll definitely be all for it.”

Last year, Smith (6-3, 214) ran for 167 yards – that’s not in one game, that’s all season. The numbers are skewed since sacks count as rushing attempts in college, but you get the point: He has not been a running quarterback.

He’s reportedly spent time studying Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees - two quarterbacks who are mobile, but won’t be running the read-option any time soon.

Last season, West Virginia started off with a five-game winning streak that included victories over Baylor and Texas. But the Mountaineers then lost five in a row.

“The one thing I take from that experience is that being a leader, you’re not going to deal with fair situations at all times,” Smith, who is expected to be a first-round pick, said. “The main thing I learned was that to stop whatever goes on, in my position as the leader of the team, I’ve got to set the bar and lead by example. That’s what I did for my team.”

Meanwhile, the one QB who might fit Chip Kelly’s (projected) preference as a passer who can also run is Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. You probably know the story by now, but just in case, Kelly recruited Manuel out of high school. The two met up at the Senior Bowl, and the Seminoles’ signal-caller has made it clear he’d love to join the Eagles.

“Obviously, I went to Florida State and played for coach (Jimbo) Fisher. Oregon was on the other side of the country,” Manuel said. “Maybe if I had been from California, I may have considered those guys more. But I definitely watched their games. I saw the success he had. He’s in Philadelphia now, so we’ll see what happens.”

Manuel was not a prolific runner in college (310 yards last season), but he has a chance to show off his athleticism at the Combine. Some think he could sneak into the first round. Others project him as a third- or fourth-rounder.

Asked if he thinks he can run the read-option in the NFL, Manuel said, “Most definitely. I did a little bit of it at Florida State. Coach Fisher would wrinkle it in whenever he felt we would be good doing that against a team. So it wasn’t like we did it the whole time. But I know we can do it.  It’s not a very complex thing. It’s mostly reading the end and also reading the big picture as far as the linebacker playing outside the end.”

One theme throughout the week here has been the production from last year’s quarterback class. Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson all showed they could be effective in their first years.

All three (along with 2011 pick Colin Kaepernick) showed they could use their athleticism as an advantage.

“I don’t think I have to be Colin Kaepernick. I don’t have to be Russell Wilson. I can be EJ Manuel. But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys,” Manuel said.

“Knowing that kind of quarterback, a guy who can run and throw – not necessarily run first, but who can throw the ball and also have that run threat, it’s more accepted now. Whereas five to 10 years ago, it really wasn’t accepted. And you definitely didn’t want to act like you [wanted to] run. You just wanted to sit in the pocket the whole time. Now, it’s more embraced as a QB.”

Manuel and Smith are both expected to participate fully in workouts on Sunday.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Manuel Wants To Be Kelly’s First QB

Let’s focus back in on EJ Manuel. 

The former Florida State quarterback was on 97.5 The Fanatic Wednesday and restated his desire to come to Philadelphia to play for Chip Kelly.

“I’m just hoping that he gives me the opportunity,” said Manuel. “I would love to come and play in his offense, I would love to play for him and I would love to be his guy. It’s kind of starting off his tenure in the NFL, and I would love to be his first quarterback. I think it would be a great relationship.”

Lou Holtz is high on the 6-4, 240-pound Virginia Beach native, and believes he is a fit for the Eagles.

“I think that [Kelly] will look for a mobile quarterback,” said Holtz. “He’s always had a mobile quarterback.

“The guy I like is EJ Manuel. He’s an excellent athlete, can run, he’s pretty durable, has a very strong arm and was impressive in the Senior Bowl.”

Manuel, the Senior Bowl MVP, was recruited by Kelly coming out of high school and has some experience running the read option.

If the Eagles are in fact interested in Manuel, part of the trick will be figuring out where in the draft they can scoop him up. Unlike last year, when the top quarterbacks were more clearly defined, this class is up in the air. Manuel in particular is all over the place. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports has him going seventh overall, several mock drafts have him being taken in the second round, while Mike Mayock has a third-fourth round grade on him.

The picture will presumably get clearer as we approach April, but Howie Roseman will have his work cut out for him figuring out exactly where Manuel — or whatever quarterback the Eagles may covet — can be snared.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kelly likes his offensive linemen to be like bar bouncers. We explain.

Sheil gives us five Kelly-related leftovers from the Senior Bowl.

Time to start rounding up the mock drafts to see who the Eagles might select at No. 4.

Rodney Harrison says he knows why the Eagles were fatigued in the second half of the Super Bowl.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Alex Smith talked about the possibility of going back to running the spread. From Les Bowen:

“Haven’t thought about it,” Smith said. “I’m certainly not opposed to it — we’ve done it here. Coach (Greg) Roman’s done a great job implementing that stuff, and even more now, with Colin in. It’s really dynamic stuff, I think. It’s hard to defend. It really creates a lot of problems for a defense, especially NFL defenses that haven’t seen it … you can see their struggles with it even on film.”

Smith said he met Chip Kelly when the then-Oregon coach visited the 49ers last summer. Didn’t have many thoughts on him otherwise. Obviously, Smith is in a tough spot this week — his focus has to be the Super Bowl. Kaepernick could go down on the first play from scrimmage Sunday, and it would be Smith’s job to lead the team to the Lombardi Trophy. He can’t let himself get carried away with what comes next.

Smith said he has “no timeline, no expectations,” but expects the 49ers to figure out what they want to do “very quickly,” whether they are immediately able to act on that decision or not.

Sam Donnellon explores Kelly’s New Hampshire days for answers on how the Eagles might move forward at quarterback.

“Chip doesn’t have to have a running quarterback,” Santos says. “I said that to a lot of people who have asked me whether I thought Chip would struggle in Philly, whether he would have to keep [Michael] Vick in order to run his offense. You look how we did it: I would run for four or five big first downs in a game, but I would run in man coverage when I knew the situation.”

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QB EJ Manuel Wants To Play For Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly has a connection with Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. He recruited the 6-4, 240-pound signal caller when Manuel was coming out of high school. Manuel, a Virginia native, ultimately chose FSU because it was closer to home than Oregon, but continued a relationship with Kelly.

And now, he wants to play for him.

“We had great conversations back in the day. He would call me and we would catch up,” said Manuel following Senior Bowl practice Tuesday. “When I saw him take the job in Philadelphia I was like, ‘Hey, Coach Kelly, give me a call, man.’ That would be nice. That’s kind of what I’m hoping for but whoever takes me in the draft, I’ll be happy to play for.”

Manuel completed 68 percent of his throws for 3,392 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Seminoles this season. He  also scored four times on the ground and  ran for 310 yards (3.0 avg.). He is thought to have a first or second-round grade. NFL.com had this to say about him:

STRENGTHS

Physically imposing passer. Throws from the shotgun formation quite often, but is also effective on play action. Flashes the velocity to stretch the field and throw in tight spaces between defenders and on the sideline. Displays good touch on throws to each level of the field, finds receivers between defenders and drop passes over their head. Good athlete with the mobility to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and take advantage of openings to pick up first downs with his feet. Quick release, though it often looks as though he’s throwing darts on shorter throws. Intelligent, high character team leader.

WEAKNESSES

Gives opponents too many chances for turnovers by forcing throws into coverage trying to make a play. Area code accuracy – short throws are often low or wide, preventing receivers from making a play after the catch. Deep ball accuracy is uneven, as well. Gets happy feet under pressure, spins to the outside to avoid the rush. Inconsistent recognizing blitz. Must step into his throws more consistently to fully utilize his arm strength.

 

The Eagles met with Manuel on Monday night, as did quarterback hungry teams such as Arizona, Buffalo and Kansas City, according to a source. Some believe that the QB’s stock is going up because of the recent success of the read-option on the NFL level.

Manuel is a fan of the system that Kelly ran at Oregon, and believes he could be the fit for it on the pro stage.

“I think it’s a beautiful offense,” said Manuel. “I’m sure people are skeptical whether it will work in the NFL, but I think if you have the right guys, the right people running your offense, it can get done.

“I think it’s an easy transition. We did the option [at Florida State]. We did the spread. We did the four verticals. We did everything.”

The Eagles are meeting with a lot of players in Mobile this week, so the fact that they sat down with Manuel should not be read into too much. Right now, we know Manuel is interested in the Eagles. Time will tell if it is mutual. Howie Roseman was asked to comment on the quarterback following practice.

“You’re talking about someone who had a lot of success in his conference and throughout his career. And just a really good kid,” said Roseman. “I think for us, we’re just starting the total evaluation process, and this is part of it here at the Senior Bowl. Obviously, all of these quarterbacks have had tremendous success. That’s why they’re being able to come to a point in their career like this.”

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