It’s no secret that the Eagles are in need of outside linebacker help.
Connor Barwin showcased his versatility last year and is a keeper on the left side. He’s not a prolific pass-rusher, but Barwin is excellent against the run, can line up in a variety of places and is good in coverage.
On the other side, Trent Cole did an admirable job of transitioning to a 3-4 OLB. But he’ll turn 32 next season and is still a bit of a square peg/round hole option. And the coaching staff saw Brandon Graham as purely a rotational player last season.
It’s possible that the Eagles go into 2014 with those same three rotating, but the better bet is that they add a piece either through free agency or the draft.
Keeping that in mind, here are four guys who will be on the market when free agency starts Tuesday. The two biggest names – Brian Orakpo and Jason Worilds - are staying with the Redskins and Steelers, respectively. So this is a watered-down group. Read more »
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 »
This week, we’ll continue to offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. We covered running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line and defensive line. Now let’s talk outside linebackers.
PRESSING QUESTION: Will there be a new starter on the outside in 2014?
McManus: I will say no, at least to start the year.
Connor Barwin may not be an elite pass-rusher but there is great value in his versatility. I think his starting job is secure. Trent Cole‘s spot really is the one to focus on. Cole is extremely well-respected within the organization and was regularly lauded by Chip Kelly and Billy Davis during the season, both noting that the numbers don’t tell the whole story when it comes to Cole’s impact on the game. And the numbers weren’t bad. Despite playing OLB for the first time in his nine-year career, he finished with eight sacks, 15 hurries and 10 tackles for a loss.
Still, Cole is 31, his pass-rushing production wasn’t consistent and the Eagles absolutely need to bolster this position. Brandon Graham contributed three sacks this season, but it’s still questionable whether he’s a fit for this team. Read more »
A few links to pass along to get you through the weekend.
Tedy Bruschi unveiled his second annual “All-Bruschi Team,” which recognizes some of the less-heralded players that are “flag carriers you need in order to win games.” Nick Foles is his quarterback.
Foles was the most efficient quarterback in the NFL this year. He led the league in passer rating and passing yards per attempt, and he threw only two interceptions. This is no dink-and-dunk quarterback; he will take you deep and make you pay. Foles led the Eagles to the NFC East title despite entering the year knowing Michael Vick was the starter. Once Vick went down, Foles stepped in and didn’t look back. The Eagles might have found their franchise quarterback.
Read more »
For most of the year, we kept track of how productive Eagles defensive players were when rushing the passer.
With all 16 regular-season games and the playoff loss to the Saints in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for one final tally.
Sacks, hurries and batted passes are tracked by the Eagles’ coaches. The Penalties column tracks instances when the defender forces an offensive holding or an intentional grounding call. Chances are tracked by Pro Football Focus. And I calculated the final column as the percentage of times a defender did something (sack, hurry, batted ball, forced penalty) to affect the passer, given the opportunities. Read more »
Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo | Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Going into Saturday night’s matchup with the Saints, the Eagles’ defensive gameplan focused on daring Sean Payton to take the football out of Drew Brees’ hands.
New Orleans has been a pass-first offense and was playing without its leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. Unlike most weeks, Davis figured he could pay less attention to the run game and instead scheme to limit big plays in the passing game. Payton responded by handing the ball off over and over again to the tune of 36 carries and 185 yards.
“That’s on me,” Davis said. “I made the calls for the passing game to make sure we keep the big plays off us. It was a lot more split safety and a lot more pass-oriented calls, so some of the runs leaked out. I could have called more of a run-based defensive game, shut that down, but we were trying to keep the points down and the big plays off us. So that run game comes down to me, not the players.” Read more »
When Trent Cole first appeared in a postseason game, Terron Armstead was not yet old enough to drive.
That was back in 2007. On Sunday, seven years later, the veteran and the rookie will square off at Lincoln Financial Field.
Since Week 11, Cole has the third-most sacks (seven) in the NFL behind only Carolina’s Greg Hardy (10) and the Giants’ Justin Tuck (9.5) Armstead, meanwhile, had not played an NFL snap until Week 16 when he took over as the Saints’ starting left tackle. After a shaky outing against the Panthers, the 22-year-old rookie looked better against the Bucs. Read more »
Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against Dallas after having watched the coaches tape.
* This group limited DeMarco Murray to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC). Cedric Thornton probably had the best game of any of the linemen. He combined with Bennie Logan to stop Murray after a 3-yard run in the first half. In the third, Thornton and Brandon Boykin dropped Murry for a 4-yard loss, putting Dallas in a tough third-down spot. Thornton finished with two tackles.
* Fletcher Cox was quiet – one tackle, no sacks, no hurries. Logan had three tackles. He pressured Kyle Orton and helped force him into a bad throw in the second.
* All three starting defensive linemen jumped early once, drawing flags. Read more »
Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.
But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.
1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »
Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Nick Foles
Here’s how one reporter presented things to Foles earlier this week:
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Looks like Tony Romo won’t be playing in this game on Sunday. Pressure is on you.
So much for subtlety.
Whether you agree with that reasoning or not, there’s no denying that this is a pressurized situation for the second-year quarterback. That’s true simply because of the situation: this is a must-win game, on the road for the rights to play in the postseason. It’s the biggest game he’s played in on this level. Read more »