What They’re Saying About the Eagles

From Jim Washburn to Andy Reid to the NFL draft, here’s the weekly roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

The Birds are 30th in ESPN.com’s power rankings. Writes Dan Graziano:

Can’t fall much farther, so even an eighth straight loss doesn’t push them down into the bottom two. Sando did it, though rating the Eagles as the absolute worst team in the league through 13 weeks. Ashley has them at 31, ahead of only the Jaguars. It’s pure personal opinion when you get to the bottom of the ballot, and I have the Eagles 27th, but how can you argue right now if someone wants to tell you there’s no one in the league worse? They haven’t won in more than two months.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post has a mock draft out. He’s got the Eagles going with Alabama guard Chance Warmack:

Peters back at left tackle, so they add Warmack who can bring stability and a physical presence to their interior offensive line.

I can only imagine the reaction in this city if the Eagles spent another first-round pick on a guard.

SI.com’s Peter King offers his take on the firing of Jim Washburn:

Andy Reid hired journeyman defensive line coach Tommy Brasher, and I wonder what he said to ol’ Tommy. Maybe, “Tommy, you’ve got four weeks, and your players have their bags packed for the offseason already. Good luck.” Washburn didn’t like the firing of Jason Babin last week and said so internally. But this doesn’t matter much. The whole staff will be gone unless owner Jeffrey Lurie has a stunning change of heart — which the Eagles’ fans will not let him have — after the season, a season with a losing streak that reached eight last night in Dallas.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has the Eagles 29th:

Does 29th seem harsh? Would the Philadelphia Eagles complain? Probably not. This group does enough to hang around, stay tied, get a small lead … before seemingly always having a breakdown in coverage at the worst possible time or a turnover that changes the course of a contest. What can Brown do for you? Sunday night, Bryce Brown fumbled — again. Down four, with plenty of time to go, the Eagles were moving on the Dallas defense again before Brown delivered … for the other team. Just like the previous Monday night.

Mark Kriegel of NFL.com argues that Reid naming Nick Foles the starter is an attempt to save his job:

I kept hearing that Andy Reid would put Michael Vick back in the lineup just as soon as he was ready. Well, I’m still waiting. Reid likes Vick. But Reid loves his job.

Brian Billick of FoxSports.com has the Eagles 30th:

The last time the Eagles lost eight consecutive games in a single season was in 1968. Nick Foles will get the rest of the year to prove he can be a starting quarterback in this league.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has the Eagles 29th:

Andy Reid has taken to firing coaches and releasing veterans. It’s nice of him to get this team ready for next year — for another coach.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has the Eagles 29th:

At some point, Andy Reid’s final year in Philly will make it impossible for another owner to sell him to a fan base as a viable coaching option.

Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders has Foles’ Week 13 performance ranked 15th among NFL quarterbacks:

Foles’ numbers in the middle of the field demonstrate why completion percentage isn’t always an accurate indicator of a quarterback’s effectiveness. Foles went 6-of-7 between the 40s for 50 yards, but only gained one first down. He also had a midfield sack-fumble.

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Podcast: Birds 24/7 Radio

Tim and Sheil get into the firing of Jim Washburn and what it means for Andy Reid. Plus, some thoughts on Nick Foles being named the starter, Bryce Brown‘s emergence and the defense’s collapse.

Download it from iTunes here or listen online here.

You can listen to Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic from 6 to 7 every Monday. Or stop by Smith’s at 19th and Chestnut, where the guys broadcast live.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Some Thoughts On Washburn

Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Jim WashburnIt was obvious that something was off in the Eagles’ locker room the minute it opened.

There was a tension that seemed out of place, even for a team that had just dropped its eighth straight. Some employees and players appeared on edge. When an emotional Derek Landri entered the room, he was instructed not to say a word. Trent Cole stood by him at his stall, almost protectively. The defensive line was gathered close.

Andy Reid said he fired Jim Washburn on Monday morning. One source contends that he was terminated just minutes after the loss to the Cowboys, which would help explain the d-line’s body language late Sunday night. It doesn’t much matter now. While some of the details are still blurry, the bottom line is that the much-hyped position coach has been sent packing, and with just four games to play.

By all accounts, Washburn did not respond well to the release of Jason Babin. There is no denying that “Wash” is a Babin guy, so much so that it became an irritant to the rest of the corps. Babin could do no wrong; the harsh criticism was reserved for everybody else. We reported that Cole walked out of a defensive line meeting in the days leading up to Babin’s release — another piece of evidence that the situation was deteriorating. The fact that Reid already had a replacement in place when he fired Washburn further suggests that there was a build-up to this moment.

“It wasn’t all about this game. That’s not what it was. It was just something that I had been pondering and working through and I just thought it was the right time now,” said Reid.

Washburn had ingrained an “Us against the world” mentality in his unit, to the point where it seemed like it was the defensive line against the rest of the team. Perhaps in such a culture it would be acceptable to refer to Juan Castillo, one of the best men in the business, as “Juanita,” since he was an outsider.

A 63-year-old acting like a teenager.

Reid’s fingerprints are all over this. He hired Washburn (before settling on Castillo as defensive coordinator) and therefore must be held responsible. It is on him.

But considering all that was on the line and everything Reid has been through, it was Washburn’s responsibility to do better by his head coach as well. And he failed.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Reid calls starting Nick Foles “the right thing to do.”

Here are some details on the firing of Washburn. Reid tries to explain why he made the move.

Sheil caught up with Brandon Graham, who believes the release of Babin indeed had an impact on the D-line coach.

Can you guess who the most-used wide receiver on Sunday night was?

Want some hope? Look no further than Bryce Brown.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Sports Illustrated put together a list of possible landing spots for Michael Vick. How about the Jets?

The contract extension handed to Mark Sanchez prior to 2012 makes this an extremely unlikely marriage. Unless Vick opts to take backup QB money, the Jets probably won’t be able to afford both guys.

Otherwise, you could see a fit here — the Jets need a shot in the arm on offense, and Vick offers the type of non-traditional skills that attracted the Jets to Tim Tebow. Sanchez’s situation is enough of a headache already, however, without adding Vick to the mix. As it is, Rex Ryan is not sure if Sanchez should continue starting over Greg McElroy, who delivered a win in relief Sunday, or Tebow.

Dan Graziano gives his take on Reid’s decision to go with Foles.

I wrote here a few weeks back that this would be a tough crossroads for Reid, when and if it happened, since he obviously likes Vick and doesn’t want to harm Vick’s chances of finding a job somewhere else after this season, and since by now it must be apparent to Reid (as it is to everyone else) that he won’t be around to coach Foles and the Eagles next year. The question at the time was whether Reid would really do the right thing for a team that appears about to fire him, or stick to his personal guns and keep starting “his guy.” At the time, I wrote that I believed Reid was the sort of man who would see it as his job to do what’s right for the Eagles franchise until such time as he no longer worked for them. This move is an example of doing just that.

COMING UP

A day off for the Eagles. But as we’ve learned with this team, there is rarely a day off from drama.

Reid On Washburn: I Was Disappointed In Some Things

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidAndy Reid didn’t want to go into full detail, but he made it pretty clear Monday afternoon that Jim Washburn’s firing had to do with more than just the defensive line’s inability to get to the quarterback.

“I’m not going to sit here and go into great detail on the whys that I’m doing it, other than I think it’s the best thing for the Philadelphia Eagles football team that I made that move,” Reid said. “This was a move that I made. Nobody else made this move. And that’s important for you to understand. This isn’t a move to save my job. That’s not what that is. This is a move that I think needed to be done now so I did it now.”

A CSNPhilly.com report by Reuben Frank paints Washburn as a disruptive force who undermined the Eagles’ defensive coordinators – going as far as calling Juan Castillo “Juanita” and speaking to him condescendingly in front of players. Reid was asked if it’s fair to say Washburn’s dismissal was not football-related.

“He’s a good football coach,” Reid said. “He’s a good football coach, and I think it was just maybe a give and take. I think he’s going to have a great career down the road with somebody else. …It just didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to work out.”

In other words, yes, that is fair to say.

“I will tell you there were just things that I was disappointed in,” Reid said. “… I just thought it was the right thing to do right now.”

The fact that Reid’s making the move with just four games left indicates that he felt he just had to get Washburn away from the players and coaches immediately. He said he made the move this morning, but had been thinking about it before then.

“It was done this morning,” Reid said. “It wasn’t all about this game. That’s not what it was. It was just something I had been pondering and working through. And I just thought it was the right time.”

Of course, it must be pointed out once again that Washburn’s failure is Reid’s failure. Reid is the one who decided to add the defensive line coach in the first place. Asked if he second-guessed the decision to add Washburn before naming a defensive coordinator, Reid said, “No, that’s not how I feel.”

In the last 39 days, Reid has fired Castillo, released Jason Babin and now dismissed Washburn. With four weeks to go until the season is over, we wait to see what the next shoe to drop will be.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Graham: Babin’s Release Took Toll On Washburn

After the Eagles released Jason Babin last week, Jim Washburn had a message for his defensive linemen.

Anything can happen, so play the final five games as hard as you can.

At the time, Washburn was unaware that he’d be gone before those final five games played out.

“After Babin left, he said that anything can happen, so let’s just play the hardest five weeks that we can,” said defensive end Brandon Graham Monday morning. “Whatever happens, happens. He said ‘I’m not going to stop being who I am. I’m not going to stop coaching as hard as I do. Whatever happens, happens.'”

Babin and Washburn were close from their Tennessee days. Graham made it sound like the defensive line coach was not consulted before his prize pupil was let go.

“I feel like that hurt him a little bit because from what I heard, he didn’t know that they were releasing him until he was actually gone,” Graham said. “I know that was one of his guys, and we all loved Babin while he was here. But I think it did get to him.”

Graham found out about Washburn’s firing Monday morning, but did not have a chance to talk to him yet. After a 1.5-sack performance Sunday night, he said he was just starting to thrive in Washburn’s system.

“Coach Wash, he was all about trying to help the team win,” Graham said. “He just always coached us so hard, and he cared about his group so hard that he always wanted us to do good and get sacks like we did our first year when he was here. Lead in sacks and win games, because he said if you sack the quarterback a lot, you’re going to win most of those games.”

Going forward, Graham will take his cues from new defensive line coach Tommy Brasher the final four games. He said he met Brasher Monday morning, and the Eagles won’t be using the wide-nine the rest of the way.

“They’re letting people go. It’s a tough season right now. They’re trying to get some W’s,” Graham said. “The people they got here ain’t getting the job done like they want to, so that’s the beast of the business.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Fire Washburn, Bring Brasher Back

The Eagles announced early Monday morning that they’ve fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn and added Tommy Brasher.

“Jim is a fine football coach and we appreciate the efforts he gave to this team over the past two years,” Reid said in a statement. “However, I determined that it was in the team’s best interest that we move in a different direction in terms of trying to maximize the production of that position group. We look forward to having Tommy Brasher back on board to work with the defensive line.”

Washburn was on the staff for 28 games. He implemented the wide-nine up front and had success in his first season, as the Eagles tied for the league lead with 50 sacks, 46 of which were by defensive linemen.

But this year has been a different story. The Eagles added resources to Washburn’s unit – including first-round pick Fletcher Cox and second-round pick Vinny Curry. They also got Brandon Graham back from injury and traded for linebacker DeMeco Ryans to help with problems against the run. But the defense has managed just 20 sacks through 12 games, tied for 27th.

“I’ll be crushed, hell I’ll quit if we ain’t a whole lot better,” Washburn said back in July during Eagles training camp. “They need to fire my ass if we ain’t better. We should be a lot better.”

The move is especially suspicious considering there are only four games left in the season, and the Eagles are 3-9. Last week, the team released defensive end Jason Babin, who was close with Washburn both in Tennessee and in Philadelphia. Tim reported last week that Trent Cole recently walked out of a defensive line meeting.

Washburn was hired in 2011 before the Eagles named a defensive coordinator, which ended up being Juan Castillo. Castillo was fired earlier this year in favor of Todd Bowles. Since that move, opposing quarterbacks have completed 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Last year, during a 38-20 loss to the New England Patriots, Washburn and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg reportedly got into a heated exchange on the sidelines.

Washburn is close friends with offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who is expected to retire at the end of the season.

Brasher, meanwhile, coached the defensive line on Reid’s staff from 1999 to 2005. Reid is scheduled to address the media Monday at noon.

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All-22: Babin’s Last Game In Green

Brandon Graham said Tuesday’s release of Jason Babin made him realize that in the NFL, “just when you think you’re safe, you’re gone.”

Babin hit the pillow Monday night as the team leader in sacks, and woke up (temporarily) unemployed.

Did his performance against the Panthers weigh into the Eagles’ decision to let him go? We took a look at the All-22 tape to figure it out.

One thing you can’t knock the 32-year old for is his effort. On Wednesday his old teammates talked about how Babin would always bust it, and the following play from the second quarter Monday is a good example. Cam Newton pitches to Jonathan Stewart, who takes off to his left. Babin is lined up wide on the other side of the field.

But it’s Babin who tracks Stewart down.

Babin was able to generate some pressure in this one. He played 40 snaps against the Panthers and finished with a sack and a pair of quarterback hits. On the play below he shakes free and is able to get a shot on Cam Newton. The quarterback is unable to follow through, and his pass intended for Steve Smith falls incomplete. (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can be credited with his solid coverage on Smith as well.)

Now onto the not-so-good.

The following play is a good example of the burden Jim Washburn‘s Wide-9 can put on the rest of defense, particularly the linebackers. Here the Panthers run a draw to DeAngelo Williams.

Babin’s positioning and aggressive approach has opened up a gaping hole. It is up to Mychal Kendricks to read the play properly, avoid big ‘ol number 61, and make an open-field tackle. Fortunately for the Eagles, he did.

Next up you will see Babin rushing off the edge as Newton surveys the field.

In his quest to get to the quarterback, he continues to push his way inside. In the process he loses the edge, and the fleet-footed Newton scrambles loose.

With nothing but daylight, Newton is able to pick up the first down.

Finally, take a look at this third-down play with two minutes remaining in the game. Carolina has an eight-point lead and is already in field goal range, but this is the defense’s last chance to try and get the ball back in the offense’s hands. The pass rush starts off well for the Eagles, as both Cullen Jenkins and Babin spring free.

Babin will attack a little too sharply to the inside, however. In the next frame, you can actually see him push off Jenkins as Newton rolls out beyond the pressure.

Haven broken the contain, Newton flicks one to Mike Tolbert for an 11-yard gain and a first down. After the play, Babin slaps his chest twice as if to suggest, “My bad.”

That was his last meaningful play in an Eagles uniform, as Newton took a couple knees to run the clock out.

Overall, you can’t call it a poor performance from Babin. He made a few plays, got some pressure. He was also out of position a few times, though that has some to do with Washburn’s design as well. The decision to release him couldn’t have been made off this game, in other words. This was a big-picture move, and a sign that a philosophy shift is right around the corner.

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Eagles Release Jason Babin

In what can certainly be perceived as a shot across the bow, the Eagles released defensive end Jason Babin Tuesday.

“We appreciate everything that Jason has given this team over the last couple of years,” said Andy Reid in a statement. “We wish him all the best as he continues his career. By releasing him today, this gives us an opportunity to give more playing time to some younger guys in the defensive line rotation.”

Though there’s obviously much more to it than that.

It has been a rather dramatic fall for the 32-year-old after an equally sharp ascent. Teamed with Jim Washburn in Tennessee in 2010, Babin racked up 12 1/2 sacks after posting no more than five sacks in a season over his first six years in the NFL. He followed his defensive line coach to Philadelphia and had 18 sacks last year, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.

He had 5 1/2 sacks this season through 11 games. There is much more to the game and the position than sacks, of course, and one criticism of Babin is that he would sell out and neglect gap and run responsibility in the name of getting to the quarterback. He appeared to be out of position a good bit in Monday’s game against the Panthers.

Babin signed a five-year, $27 million deal in 2011 and was making a base salary of $5 million this season. The deal included just a $1 million signing bonus. According to multiple reports the Eagles do not owe Babin anything, as termination pay is a one-time benefit, and Babin collected when he was cut by Seattle.

With plenty of bodies at defensive end, the Eagles were going to part with Babin anyway this offseason in all likelihood. As the Reid statement suggests, this is a way to get more of the young guys, like Vinny Curry, some more playing time down the stretch.

However, it can also serve as a sign that nobody’s job is safe and that there will be consequences if a certain level of play is not reached.

Things have not been completely harmonious on the defensive front during this seven-game slide. According to a source, a frustrated Trent Cole walked out during a defensive line meeting recently. Behind the Wide-9, the defense compiled 50 sacks a year ago. This season they have just 18 — the same number Babin got all by himself last year.

Some players were apparently rubbed the wrong way by the Washburn-Babin relationship, feeling that he was treated a bit differently than the rest of them. Babin is now gone. And it’s very possible Washburn will be as well in the near future.

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Vinny Curry Finally Gets the Call…Or Tweet

Vinny Curry has been waiting 10 weeks for some good news. He finally got it…on Twitter.

“I was like, ‘I wonder if it’s true?'” said Curry. “You’re kind of anxious to get back to work to see if it’s true. Today, Coach Wash told me I would be up, and I’m just excited.”

The second-round pick out of Marshall will be activated for the first time all season. It has been a long wait to get his first taste of NFL action, and his moment has finally arrived.

What will the fans see?

“Just a guy out there who has worked his tail off,” said Curry, a New Jersey native who grew up an Eagles fan. “I was brought here in the second round, and I just want to show them what I can bring to the table and let them form their own opinion about me.”

There have been a bunch of rookie contributors on this Eagles team this season. From Brandon Boykin to Fletcher Cox to Mychal Kendricks; from Bryce Brown to Nick Foles to Damaris Johnson, plenty of first-year players got a chance to learn on the job early. Curry, though, has not dressed. The explanation is that it’s been numbers game. The spots occupied by the likes of Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp, he hasn’t been able to break through.

But  the defensive ends have not performed as anticipated; same goes for the team. As such, he’ll get his chance on Monday night.

“Patience is the key,” said Curry. “Face it, those guys are household names. I also want to establish my name around this league.

“That’s going to be pretty sweet being active. But now the thing is, hopefully I get a lot of plays.”

Curry said he has been getting most of his reps at right defensive end. The 6-3, 266-pounder racked up 26 sacks, 49 tackles for a loss and 10 forced fumbles in four years at Marshall.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Babin Hints At Bowles Adjustment

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason BabinThrough the first six games, Todd Bowles’ primary focus has been working with the defensive backs.

But this week, his first as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Bowles’ will likely spend some time trying to figure out a way to get the pass-rushers free. That’s going to be a key in the final 10 games. The secondary has played well, and while the defensive line has certainly affected games (everything’s connected, after all), Jim Washburn’s group has not been the dominant presence many were expecting when the season started.

So what’s the answer to jump-starting the pass-rush? During an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic, defensive end Jason Babin was asked if more blitzing could be a possible solution.

“It definitely is something that could be sprinkled in at the appropriate times to help us out,” he said. “And if the quarterback doesn’t know where to throw the ball right away, and if he has to hold the ball for that extra half-second, that extra second, well that gives us that time to sack the quarterback.”

In other words, the changes we may see Sunday could have less to do with blitzing and more to do with coverages. After all, that’s Bowles’ area of expertise. What if when Matt Ryan tries to get rid of the ball quickly there’s an Eagles defender in place to pick him off? Perhaps he’d then think twice about unloading it, and the defensive line would have time to get to him.

“The way I think he’s going to approach it in such a manner where the quarterback’s going to hold the ball,” Babin said. “How he’s going to do that, it doesn’t really tie into what I do, but more so the back end, so it’ll be exciting to see. He knows what he’s doing. Trust me when I say he’s a professional.”

While there have been many reasons for the lack of sacks – teams max-protecting, quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly – Babin said he and his teammates are not looking to make excuses.

“We’re owning the fact that we haven’t gotten sacks,” he said. “We put that on ourselves and we’re going to own that like a man…

“We don’t sit around, ‘Oh well, they’re blocking us like this.’ We’re trying to find a solution constantly for that.”

In last year’s meeting, the Eagles sacked Ryan four times and only blitzed twice all game. Whether they can get to him Sunday could be the difference between 4-3 and 3-4 heading into New Orleans.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Think the Eagles drew the short straw this year playing so many teams coming off the bye? You’re not alone. The NFL actually agrees with you an extent. Great job by T-Mac of getting the league to comment on the scheduling.

The Birds made a roster move at center, signing Matt Tennant and releasing Steve Vallos.

From Brandon Graham’s playing time to LeSean McCoy missing Jason Peters, here are five Eagles numbers that matter.

Danny Watkins isn’t talking to the media, but some of his teammates recently commented on how the second-year guard is progressing.

This week’s expanded roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Brian Westbrook offered his take on Watkins. From CSNPhilly.com:

“As an offensive lineman, you can’t go where the linebacker is at right now,” Westbrook said. “You have to understand the scheme first of all, to know where they’re going. You have to go where the linebackers or defensive backs are gonna be. And right now, because he hasn’t had a lot of time on the football field, he doesn’t know. He doesn’t understand the scheme very well, and he doesn’t know where these guys are gonna end up at, so therefore, he’s just guessing.”

The Cowboys were dealt a huge blow yesterday. Sean Lee, one of the top linebackers in the league, is done for the season because of a right toe injury, sources tell ESPNDallas.com. Writes Calvin Watkins:

The Cowboys coach’s one-game-at-a-time mantra is needed at Valley Ranch, and Lee is one of its main disciples.

The young inside linebacker buys into the message and spreads it across the locker room. His play on the field is contagious, too.

If you don’t believe it, check the numbers: He’s third on the team with eight quarterback pressures this season, is tied for second with two tackles for loss, has one of the four forced fumbles, one of the two interceptions and two pass breakups.

COMING UP

The Eagles return to Novacare to prep for Sunday’s game vs. the Falcons. We’ll have everything covered.

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

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