Archive for category Eagle Nest

Picking apart the 100 best current NFL players (91-100)

I’m sure you have all heard of NFL Netowrk’s new top 100 players of 2011 show by now. The players vote for the best players of today, and I was inspired to make a list of my own. Here’s my reaction to the list.

100. Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins (unranked on my list): There’s no way a player that gets benched in favor of Rex Grossman is one of the top one hundred current players. This isn’t a list of the best active players, it’s a list of the best current players.

99. Chad Clifton, OT, Packers (92nd on my list): A rock solid left tackle. He belongs towards the bottom of this list.

98. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders (unranked on my list): A very talented player who just missed the cut on my list. If he had one more productive year under his belt, I would be more sold on him going forward.

97. Shaun Phillips, OLB, Chargers (unranked on my list): A solid player who just doesn’t stand out in a league filled with remarkable pass rushers. I have no complaints about his inclusion on the list.

96. Nick Collins, S, Packers (95th on my list): A very good young safety who’s right around where he should be.

95. John Beason, ILB, Panthers (unranked on my list): Beason is a bright spot on an awful Carolina team. He’s definitely on the top 150 list, but isn’t truly elite.

94. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers (80th on my list): An explosive but well-rounded back who certainly has earned his spot on the list as he has carried a perennially poor San Francisco squad.

93. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs (unranked on my list): I’ll be the first to admit that I only watched one or two Chiefs games this year, but I still think that other guys like Brandon Meriweather, Chris Harris, and Louis Delmas are more worthy of making the list.

92. Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears (unranked on my list): I just don’t think Briggs ever became an elite player. He’s very good, but I’d rather have Chad Greenway or David Harris on the list.

91. Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals (unranked on my list): Owens is still a very good player, and would have been the 102nd player on my list.

My list (91-100)

100. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

99. Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns

98. Cameron Wake, OLB, Dolphins

97. Carl Nicks, G, Saints

96. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

95. Nick Collins, S, Packers

94. Kellen Winslow Jr., TE, Buccaneers

93. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers

92. Chad Clifton, OT, Packers

91. Cullen Jenkins, DE, Packers


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5 Moves the Eagles should consider making

Overall, the Eagles have been one of the few consistently successful NFL teams over the past decade. They are joined by the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers, and I suppose you could throw the Ravens in there. However, there’s always room for improvement and it gets a lot tougher to continue success through two decades than one. Give the Eagles credit for turning over their roster. This is not a team dependent on one player, as we see the team continue to make the playoffs despite the absence of stars like Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, and Sheldon Brown. I have come up with five good ways for the Eagles to plan for the future.

1. Trade Kevin Kolb: It has to be done. Although Kolb is a valuable backup, he’s worth much more to other teams than he is to the Eagles. Think of it this way; would you trade a first round pick (and possibly more) for a quality backup passer when you have Michael Vick? Of course not, so why would you hesitate when the deal is presented the other way around? If Kolb was under contract for a long time, I would feel differently, but since he’s out after this season anyway, the Eagles might as well cash in on him. Either Arizona or Seattle would be willing to give up a first and third round pick for him. So, heading into 2012, the Eagles will have seven picks in the first four rounds.

2. Hire a game manager: Andy Reid is an elite head coach in this league because of his ability to develop offensive talent and because he is great at finding players that fit his scheme. However, he has his weaknesses. The Eagles could have come away with some key wins if Andy Reid knew how to manage the clock in the two minute drill or when to throw the red hankie. Find somebody who can teach Michael Vick how to master the clock and be in the upstairs booth telling Big Red when to pull out the challenge flag. Having a key behind-the-scenes man could be the difference between a win and a loss in the playoffs.

3. Stockpile DBs: With a franchise quarterback, explosive receivers, talented pass rushers, and the two best positional coaches on each line, the Eagles are missing only one component required to become Super Bowl favorites. They need defensive backs. To go through teams like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Green Bay in the playoffs, the Eagles will need to be at least seven or eight deep in the secondary. Without a coaching genius like Howard Mudd or Jim Washburn back there, the Eagles will have to do it with talent. If Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins declares for the supplemental draft, I would be willing to spend a second round pick on him. If he doesn’t, I would go out and get Nnamdi Asomugha, Jonathan Joseph, Antonio Cromartie, or Ike Taylor and let Trevard Lindley and Curtis Marsh continue to develop behind them. My two first round picks in 2011 would ideally go towards Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson and South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, Stephon Gilmore, Trevard Lindley, Janzen Jackson, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, and Kurt Coleman make up a secondary that will be capable of carrying the team.

4. Trade DeSean Jackson: Yes, I said it. Keep in mind that I would only consider a trade if a team were willing to give up the farm for him. The trade would have to fetch a lot more than the Broncos got for Brandon Marshall (two second rounders). I would demand two first rounders. If anybody bites, the Eagles will be in great shape for 2012, as they would have three first round picks and two more in 2013, which is 2000 Jets-esque (they took Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Chad Pennington, and Anthony Becht in the first round). Jackson just disappears for too long and is afraid to run across the middle. He has his place in the league, but he is overrated.

5. Hire a top defensive coordinator: Juan Castillo might get the job done, but assuming he’s not Jim Jonhnson, which nobody expects him to be, the Eagles should try to get an upgrade. It’s easier said than done, but the Eagle defense won’t be what it once was without a Jim Johnson or Steve Spagnuolo at the helm.

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Draft report card

Over the weekend, the Eagles welcomed eleven young prospects to the family. How many of them will be able to make their mark on the franchise immediately. Last year, the team got great production out of Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman, and Nate Allen, with Riley Cooper, Trevard Lindley, and Brandon Graham showing some promise as well. Here are my grades and analysis of all eleven selections.

1. Danny Watkins (Round 1, 23rd overall): Watkins wasn’t on my radar in the first round, but he will start at right guard from day one and has a great amount of untapped potential as a player who is still new to the game. He reminds me a lot of Logan Mankins, who was taken in a similar spot and then promptly kicked inside to guard, where he excelled. It’s worth noting that he’s almost 27, but he’s still a solid pick for the Eagles. To me, he has a high floor and a higher ceiling, and while I would have rather had Jimmy Smith or Gabe Carimi, I can’t fault Andy Reid too much for this pick. Grade: B-

2. Jaiquawn Jarrett (Round 2, 54th overall): I can tell Jarrett will be a fan favorite. He played his college ball for Temple and will hit the snot out of anything that moves. Brian Dawkins comes to mind as Jarrett excels in run support. Of course, the fact that the Eagles went safety so high almost certainly means that Quintin Mikell’s run in Philadelphia is over. Jarrett will be an exceptional special teams player while he adjusts to the speed of the game and becomes more comfortable in man coverage. If he learns quickly, he will compete with Kurt Coleman for the starting strong safety gig. Because I’m not quite sold in his coverage skills, I give the pick a B- grade.

3. Curtis Marsh (Round 3, 90th overall): Marsh is a developmental cover man who spent a good part of his college career as a running back at Utah State. He recently converted to cornerback, where he showed vast improvement in 2010. Still, a ton of work needs to be done before he can push Trevard Lindley or Joselio Hanson for a prominent role in the defense. While he’s a gifted athlete, I fear that he may have too much work ahead of him before he can become an effective defender. Grade: D+

4. Casey Matthews (Round 4, 116th overall): Matthews is hoping to become the fourth member of his family to be an all-pro NFL player. A vastly inferior athlete to brother Clay, Casey plays with heart, intelligence, and intensity. He’s one of those players who you are simply afraid to bet against, and makes for a wonderful presence in the locker room. He can either play the MIKE or WILL linebacker spots, and would likely be forced into a starting role if Stewart Bradley is not retained when the lockout ends. In the best case scenario, he is a versatile back-up who can play at a high level at all three linebacker slots. Grade: A-

5. Alex Henery (Round 4, 120th overall): A kicker in the fourth round is a rare sight, but Andy Reid felt compelled to pull the trigger on arguably the best kicker in NCAA history. This means that David Akers is as good as gone, especially since Reid refused to talk about him during the post-draft press conference. Henery can also punt, and there’s an outside chance that he can replace both Akers and Sav Rocca and save the Eagles a roster spot. You hate to spend such a high pick on a kicker, but clutch kicking is very valuable and Akers would have to be replaced at some point. Grade: B-

6. Dion Lewis (Round 5, 149th overall): Like LeSean McCoy, Lewis was a superstar running back for the Pitt Panthers and entered the draft as an underclassman. Like McCoy, he’s undersized at 5’7″, 193, and plays much faster than he times (both Lewis and McCoy ran a shade under a 4.6). Lewis doesn’t have very good measurables, but he is very shifty, tough, and has a knack for the game of football. He’s a much better inside runner than McCoy was coming out of college, although he’s not nearly as elusive. The two friends will form a formidable backfield combo, especially if Jerome Harrison is brought back to form another three headed monster. Grade: A-

7. Julian Vandervelde (Round 5, 161st overall): A guard, an opera singer, and an all-academic selection, Vandervelde is an intriguing interior offensive line prospect out of Iowa. At 6’3″, 300, he doesn’t have overwhelming physical traits, but is tough and cerebral. I don’t know much about him, but I believe Howard Mudd will be able to turn him into a solid reserve guard. The Eagles will need depth behind Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins. Grade: C

8. Jason Kelce (Round 6, 191st overall): The last two players the Eagles took out of Cincinnati were also late round picks who were too small or too slow. I’d say Trent Cole and Brent Celek turned out pretty well. Kelce is a severely undersized center prospect at 280 pounds, but as a former linebacker, he displays very good tenacity and quickness for the position. He’s a developmental prospect who will have to beat out practice squad players like Fenuki Tupou and A.Q. Shipley. Grade: D+

9. Brian Rolle (Round 6, 193rd overall): A good buddy of Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle is an unusually small linebacker. At Ohio State, he played the middle while standing under 5’10” and weighing under 230 pounds. However, he’s exceptionally fast and is absolutely fearless. He attacks blockers as fiercely as James Farrior, and plays the game at full speed. In many ways, he’s similar to Jamar Chaney as far as making up in speed what they lack in size. He will be a special teams demon and looks like a great player to plug into nickel and dime packages although I doubt he will ever be a starter. I like the pick, but I would have much rather had his teammate Ross Homan. Grade: B

10. Greg Lloyd Jr. (Round 7, 237th overall): Lloyd is the son of the former Steelers linebacker, and has a shot at making the team. At 246 pounds, he’s a thumper inside who’s had to overcome several injuries. He reminds me a lot of Joe Mays, a stout middle linebacker who was taken in the late rounds by the Eagles. I’ve never seen Lloyd play, so I will give a grade based on his chances of making the team. Grade: B-

11. Stanley Havili (Round 7, 240th overall): Havili was a matchup nighmare at USC as a fullback/tailback/wide reciever/tight end. At 227 pounds, he’s an athletic fullback who can split out and run routes on linebackers and run the ball hard between the tackles, not unlike Leonard Weaver. He was drafted as insurance in case Weaver is unable to recover from his injury. He and Owen Schmitt would then compete for the fullback job. Grade: B+

Overall, the Eagles got about five players who will be able to contribute as rookies, which is not bad. However, they did nothing to address their huge need at right cornerback. I hope they plan to reel in a big fish in free agency, whether it be Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, Jonathan Joseph, or Aqib Talib. As always, it will take three or four years to judge this draft class, but if I had to assign it a grade now, I would give it a low B. With the eleven picks the Eagles ended up with, here’s who I would have taken, in order.

Jimmy Smith, Rodney Hudson, Sam Acho, James Brewer, Quan Sturdivant, Richard Sherman, Da’Rel Scott, Ross Homan, Greg Romeus, Eric Hagg, Stanley Havili

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Eagles stay local in round 2

Again opting not to move from their predetermined draft slot, Andy Reid gave the second round nod to Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. Reading between the lines, this means that unrestricted free agent Quintin Mikell is no longer in the Eagles’ plans. Adding Jarrett to two promising youngsters in Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman means that the Eagles are going younger on the back end.

While Jarrett is a solid player, I would have taken either Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick, who would have been a starter at right cornerback, or Rodney Hudson, a top interior offensive lineman who would be great with Danny Watkins, Jason Peters, and Todd Herremans. For those of you who do not watch much of Temple, Jarrett is a lights out hitter, and has an identical frame to Brian Dawkins. He has the makings of a remarkable special teams player who is a great third safety. He can wrap up, deliver the knockout blow, and does not get beat deep. Sometimes, he needs to be more aggressive and instinctive in coverage, and I think he needs a year to work on that before he becomes a really good player. However, there’s no doubt that the talent is there.

Eagles draft grade: Watkins (C+) Jarrett (B-) … Overall – C+

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Danny Whatkins???

I don’t think anybody saw this one coming. With Gabe Carimi, Jimmy Smith, and Akeem Ayers still on the board, Andy Reid threw Eagle fans yet another curveball by selecting Danny Watkins, the Baylor offensive lineman, in the first round. I still firmly believe that Jimmy Smith should have been the pick, but I believe Watkins will be a good player. After watching additional film of him this morning, I came away really impressed with his skill-set, and there’s no way he’s not one of the top five blockers on the squad.

If you still don’t know, Watkins took a very unconventional route to the NFL. Growing up in Canada, Watkins played a lot of hockey and rugby, but never set foot on the gridiron until after he was older than most of the guys who were drafted last night. At age 22, Watkins played for a community college in California, and two years later became a stud left tackle for the Baylor Bears. He played in an offense very similar to the one the Eagles run, and blocked for one of the most dangerous dual threat passers in college, Robert Griffin III. He put his name on the map in the Senior Bowl, where he was very impressive, and it’s worth noting that he surrendered one sack to Von Miller in two meetings, and that sack happened over four seconds after the snap as Griffin was scrambling. In fact, Reid cited the Texas A&M game as the film that really sold him on Watkins.

Although I believe he is capable of being a solid right tackle, it’s clear that Andy Reid plans to plug him in at right guard from day one. He will team with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans to form a very talented trio up front, with players such as Mike McGlynn, Winston Justice, Jamaal Jackson, and King Dunlap left to battle it out for the two remaining spots on the line. So, while Watkins certainly would not have been my pick, he’s a good player who fills a need. He has a high ceiling and a low floor, and will be in great hands with Howard Mudd. I do want to look ahead to rounds two and three tonight though.

I think the Eagles need to come away with a cornerback in this round, and three guys still on the board really intrigue me. The first is Texas’ Aaron Williams, who almost certainly be taken before 54, when the Eagles select. After him, I love Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, who the Eagles have a legitimate shot at without moving up. The third player would be Louisville’s Johnny Patrick, who probably has the best shot at still being on the board. Other players to keep an eye out for are UCLA’s versatile linebacker Akeem Ayers, Clemson’s talented defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, and UCLA’s ballhawking safety Rahim Moore.

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If I were calling the shots on draft day…

Boy would I give anything to be in this position. In the war room. Phone ringing off the hook. Trying to perfect the crapshoot called the NFL draft. As a general manager, here’s how I would want things to play out.

1. Resolve the CBA, then trade Kevin Kolb

If a new deal is not reached by draft day, no players can be traded for draft picks. That would throw a huge wrench in my dream draft for the Eagles. Assuming one is reached after the draft, I would deal Kolb for a package of 2012 picks that would likely be a first and a third rounder. Yes, you want insurance for a quarterback like Michael Vick, but I do think that Kolb is slightly overrated, and it’s a virtual certainty that if he is not traded, he will leave for no compensation after the 2011 season. Some potential trade partners would be Seattle, Arizona, and Buffalo. With the draft only two weeks away, I will assume that Kolb will be traded for 2012 picks, which may end up working even better for the Eagles in the long run.

2. Stay put at 23

I really like the 23rd slot this season. A couple players that I really like will still be available and there’s not a huge drop-off in talent from 13th to 23rd. After your six to nine elite players, there are about fifteen to eighteen prospects in the second tier. A few will be available when the Eagles pick. However, after the late twenties, the talent does thin out considerably. It would take an exceptional offer to get me to back off from the 23rd selection. At that point, I would take Jimmy Smith. He fills the Eagles’ biggest need, is probably the top talent on the board, and can make an immediate impact. He’s tall, lanky, and can flat out cover. You can plug him into the starting line-up and he will produce. The more I watch him, the more I think Antonio Cromartie. Physically, they are nearly identical and they play a very similar brand of football. Neither know when to shut their mouths and their teams cringe whenever they talk to the media. However, in Smith, you’re getting a pro bowl talent at 23, so you have to deal with the character issues. He and Asante Samuel could form one of the great cornerback duos in the league, and there would be great depth behind them with Trevard Lindley and Joselio Hanson. If by some miracle Smith is off the board, Gabe Carimi would be my pick. He doesn’t have the upside of Smith, but he’s a tough, reliable right tackle. The Eagles need a bookend for Jason Peters almost as much as a right corner, and Carimi’s length and nastiness fit the Andy Reid mold. I buy the comparisons to Jon Runyan, and I would take Carimi over Anthony Castonzo or Nate Solder. Mike Pouncey would be my emergency option, and if all three are gone, surely a talented front seven player such as Corey Liuget or Akeem Ayers would still be available.

Move: Draft Colorado CB Jimmy Smith at 23.

3. Probably trade the 54th overall pick

Either up or down, I don’t care. If Rahim Moore falls into the forties, I would trade 54 and one of my fourth rounders to go up and get him. I think he’ll be a very, very good player. He, Jimmy Smith, Nate Allen, and Asante Samuel makes the secondary a big strength. That scenario isn’t all that likely though. So, when my pick finally rolls around, I would take Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard or Miami guard Orlando Franklin if either is still around. Franklin reminds me a lot of Todd Herremans. He’s a complete player who pairs his athleticism with toughness. Sheard is very powerful at the point of attack and explosive enough to make a difference as a pass rusher. If both are gone, I would trade this pick to a team who wants to snatch up one of the last good quarterback prospects, whether it be Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, or even Ryan Mallett.

Move: Trade 54th selection to QB needy team for early 3rd round pick and 2012 4th round pick.

4. Take advantage of having 4 picks in rounds 3 and 4

With my first third rounder, I’m taking Alabama tackle James Carpenter. He can pass protect with the best of them, and can push for the starting job at right tackle or right guard. My next pick would be spent on Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy. He’s a big, tough, versatile player who isn’t the most physically gifted player, but can provide great depth and compete with Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley, and Jamar Chaney. In the fourth round, Syracuse running back Delone Carter is my man. I think he has a chance to be the next great short, thick running back as he compares favorably to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Now, those are high expectations, but he can certainly be a great back-up to LeSean McCoy and Jerome Harrison, potentially forming a new three headed monster. Carter is shifty but tough to bring down, and is natural when catching the football. My last fourth round pick goes to Greg Romeus, the Pittsburgh defensive end. He had bad injury luck and consequently did not produce in his senior season, but was regarded as a high first round pick last year when he decided to return to school. Add him to the plethora of talented, young pass rushers trying to crack the rotation including Ricky Sapp, Philip Hunt, and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Move: Draft Alabama OT James Carpenter, Miami LB Colin McCarthy, Syracuse RB Delone Carter, and Pittsburgh DE Greg Romeus.

5. Late rounds

Just take flyers on guys who have potential in areas where there is a roster spot open. I like South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley, Portland State tight end Julius Thomas, Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter.

6. Look ahead to 2012

Now, I have two first, two third, and two fourth round picks in 2012. There should be many more NFC East crowns in the coming decade…

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Assessing the Eagles: offensive line

LT: Everybody loves to call Jason Peters the most overrated player in football. He’s not. He’s not Walter Jones, but he routinely goes up against the top pass rushers in the league and rarely, if ever, gets help. In addition to being the team’s best run blocker, he is under contract for several more seasons, and is entrenched as the starter on the left side. Behind him, I really like Austin Howard. He’s not ready to play yet, but is huge, athletic, and nasty. He has as much upside as any player on the line, and could be a very good player down the road.

LG: Todd Herremans is a reliable starter at left guard who can do it all. He’s got good size, athleticism, and smarts which make him a perfect fit in the Reid system. He can also kick out to tackle if necessary. He and Peters form a nice tandem on the left side of the line, and can be counted on in the future. As far as depth is concerned, Reggie Wells was a disappointment and now that his contract has expired, I doubt he will be brought back.

C: After two straight season ending injuries, Jamaal Jackson’s future with the Eagles has to be in doubt. He’s a solid starter when healthy, but the Eagles’ patience may be wearing thin as it did in Shawn Andrews’ case. Filling in for him was Mike McGlynn, who started off the year miserably, but showed considerable improvement towards the playoffs. Still, I question whether he mastered the line calls, and he’s a much better fit at guard in my opinion. I would strongly consider taking a center in the third round of the draft such as Florida State’s Rodney Hudson or Penn State’s Stefan Wisniewski to compete for the starting role.

RG: Yes, right guard was a mess, but not as big of a mess as most make it out to be. Many fans and experts use Max Jean-Gilles as the scapegoat for the Eagles’ offensive line woes, but he was the only lineman on the team to have started a game and not allowed a sack or half-sack. Ideally, the Eagles would address this position, but I would not freak out if MJG was slated as the starter in 2011. Justin Blalock, Robert Gallery, or David Bass could be answers in free agency, and players like Lehigh’s William Rackley, Georgia’s Clint Boling, and TCU’s Marcus Cannon should be on the Eagles’ radar on the draft’s second day. Nick Cole should not be invited back to the team as his 2010 campaign was beyond miserable.

RT: The Eagles have two talented players at right tackle in Winston Justice and King Dunlap, but as this position protects Michael Vick’s blind side, the Eagles cannot afford to settle for an average player here. Having a terrible right guard likely would not impede the Eagles’ chances in the playoffs, but having a terrible right tackle certainly would. Jammal Brown and Jared Gaither are two very intriguing free agent targets for the Eagles, as both are supremely talented pass protectors who have experience as their team’s lead tackle. If those options do not work out, I would take Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi in the first round or Alabama’s James Carpenter in the third.

Verdict: Release Nick Cole and Reggie Wells and bring back Max Jean-Gilles. Sign either Jammal Brown or Jared Gaither in free agency, and spend a third round selection on an interior offensive line prospect. As long as two bookend tackles are in place and Howard Mudd develops his young players such as Austin Howard and Mike McGlynn, the offensive line should be fine as long as they are allowed to gel as a group.

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