Eagles Wake-Up Call: Thomas Surprised, Pained To Be Let Go
Today’s question comes from reader Matt, via e-mail:
Why did the Eagles not bring Tra Thomas back if the unit he was coaching did so well?
Matt’s e-mail referred to an interview Thomas did with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic earlier this week.
When the Eagles announced their coaching moves Tuesday, one thing they didn’t mention was that Thomas is no longer on Chip Kelly’s staff. The former left tackle joined the team as a coaching intern in the spring of 2013, and later that summer, he was rewarded with a full-time assistant position.
Thomas originally worked on the offensive side of the ball, but this past season, he spent time with the outside linebackers.
“I was a little bit surprised just because when I switched over to the outside linebackers, they improved last year,” Thomas said. “The last season, they put up 16 sacks, and then you switch me over to the other side, I start working with ’em, and then this past season we put up 26.5 sacks. Connor Barwin went from five sacks to 14.5 sacks. So I was a little bit surprised just because you can look at the numbers and see that there was improvement in that group. But it’s just the way it goes.
“I went in and asked Coach [Kelly] what my situation was gonna be, and what I was told was that position I had was just kind of something they made up for me to get me some experience on this side of the game, and that it’s not gonna exist next year.”
Thomas added that he had no hard feelings, learned a lot and appreciated the opportunity. But clearly, he was disappointed.
“It pains me that I’m going to have to be looking for work with another organization, especially where it was kind of like an organization that I spent so many years in and wanted to just really continue in that realm,” he said.
Kelly has not been available to speak about any of the coaching or front office changes. When the Eagles first brought Thomas on full-time, Kelly raved about him. But in early December, he was asked how much of an impact Thomas had on the pass-rush.
“I wouldn’t say a lot,” said Kelly. “Right now Tra is doing a lot of film breakdown and things like that. But Billy [Davis] and Az [Jerry Azzinaro] and those guys are coaching those guys on the field.”
Kelly has a staff of 22. If he felt like Thomas could be of value, he would have kept him on board. Instead, Thomas said he’ll look to catch on with another team.
He did offer a couple thoughts on the state of the Eagles. Asked about the Marcus Mariota possibility, Thomas said: “Coach Kelly really likes to have as many Oregon players on the team as possible just because I think they understand his system.”
Asked later about the scheme, Thomas added: “You’re gonna need a running quarterback if you’re gonna run this type of offense.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Our offseason outlook series continued with a look at the running backs. I explained why I think LeSean McCoy will be back, plus a look at some free agents.
ESPN’s Todd McShay mocked Alabama safety Landon Collins to the Eagles.
Why decisions at OLB loom large for the Birds this offseason.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz takes a look at how the team should use the draft and free agency:
The Eagles need to focus on free agency and trades with finding immediate help for the secondary. I do think they will spend draft picks as well, but those players will be for the future, not 2015. If the Eagles are looking for a starting CB at pick 20, then 2015 is not going to be the kind of season I want it to be.
I’m not saying a rookie can’t play his way into the lineup. Obviously you love when that happens. You don’t want to be counting on a rookie to solve a big problem. That’s when you are in trouble. Even a really talented rookie is still a rookie. He’s going to make rookie mistakes. You’re better off with a veteran starter if that is possible.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice thinks the Eagles will end up opening their season against the Patriots:
This is the only serious contender with the Eagles for the NFL kickoff game. The Steelers have a rabid fan base that “travels well” with their “Terrible Towels,” but their popularity doesn’t translate to a national TV audience. In 2014, the highest rated Steelers game ranked 35th in terms of viewing audience. Here were their top five ratings grabbers, via TV by the numbers.
The Eagles didn’t make the playoffs in 2014, but they’re an exiting team that scores a lot, and gives up a lot of points. Think the NFL likes that? The Eagles will be in Foxboro Thursday night Week 1 of the 2015 season. Book it.
We’ll have another positional preview and take a spin around the NFC East