May, 2012:

Eagles OTA notes, May 31, 2012

Ticks are idiots.

- First and foremost, the big news of the day is that I got bit by a tick.  Or at least I think I got bit by a tick.  It was borrowing into my stomach and I had to rip it out.  I would assume that counts as being bit?  What an idiot that tick was.  It’s dead now.  Was it really worth it?  I mean… my stomach is full of cheeseburgery milkshakey goodness and all, but is it really worth risking your life to try to burrow in for a taste?  Anyway, trooper that I am, I continued to take notes on practice for about an hour despite this horrific injury.  Jack Youngblood playing linebacker with a broken leg?  Pfft.  You got nothin’.  Anyway, if anyone happens to be an expert on ticks, I’d prefer not to get Lyme disease.  I washed the affected area, and then threw some Purell on there.  If there are further steps I should take, your advice would be much appreciated.  Oh, also, Les Bowen got stung by a bee.  Tough day for the reporters.

- I would have consulted with trainer Rick Burkholder, but he was busy tending to Jeremy Maclin. I tweeted earlier that Maclin had his ankle taped up, was limping around a little, and was then looked at by Burkholder.  I know people get nervous at any hint of an injury, but he practiced the rest of the day, perhaps on a limited basis, and answered questions for a good 10 minutes after practice.  I would venture a guess and say he’s fine.

- Really fun watching DeSean Jackson go against DRC in 1-on-1′s.  In my third season of watching Eagles practices, DRC is the only player I’ve seen that can run with DJax in those drills.  DJax, by the way, in 7 on 7′s, was going down on his own after making catches in traffic.  Practice makes perfect.

- One guy that I seem to notice making a lot of catches in traffic is Chase Ford, who is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Miami.  He’s been active enough that I looked up his college stats on the sidelines during practice.  They’re very unimpressive:

Chase Ford Rec Yards TD
2011 9 88 1
2010 7 96 1

You’d never know those were his numbers watching him fluidly catch passes and turning upfield. I’ll be interested in getting a better look at him in pads at Lehigh to see if he can block.

Continued after the jump…

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Jerry Jones and I finally agree on something: Dez Bryant should return punts this season

Today, Jerry Jones stated that he wants Dez Bryant to return punts this season:

“I have no issue with us making business decisions relative to him returning punts,” Jones said. “What I do want him to do is to get enough repetitions so he can have a sense of fielding them and when to field them and when not to field them and make those kinds of judgments, but I like him back there to use him when we’ve got a long field or a chance for a return.”

Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News laid out a number of reasons why the Cowboys should perhaps reconsider, and they all make plenty of sense.  I’ll paraphrase them here:

  • Bryant suffered a deep thigh bruise on a punt return Week 1 vs the Jets, and missed the following game in San Francisco.
  • The Cowboys have crappy depth at WR.
  • Bryant didn’t have an impressive season in 2011 anyway.  He averaged only 6.9 yards per return (on 15 returns) and his long was just 20 yards.

I see it somewhat differently:

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Film breakdown: The good and bad of Martellus Bennett

When I attended Giants OTAs last week, a player that I couldn’t help but notice was Martellus Bennett:

Martellus Bennett is listed at 6’6, 270.  We can see those numbers and know that he’s a big guy.  But sometimes you don’t really grasp how enormous a player is until you see him in 3D.  Bennett is one of those guys. I hadn’t really planned on paying too much attention to Marty, but I wound up watching him quite a bit.  His athleticism is everything as advertised.  It’s impressive how well he moves for a guy his size.  However, (and I’ll say this bluntly)… His route running sucks.  On 2 consecutive plays, I watched him run a little 10 yard stop.  Both times, he got to his spot quickly, but executed a very lazy turn back to the QB.  I could have flipped around more quickly.  On that kind of route, when you hit your spot, you want to turn your body sharply back to the QB and give him a big target.  Bennett’s turns were slow and lazy.  In a weird way, I think this should be looked at as a positive.  From what I saw, Bennett’s deficiencies are fixable.  Last year, the Giants took a complete unknown in Jake Ballard and turned him into a guy that would contribute 604 receiving yards.  In terms of pure talent, Ballard doesn’t touch Bennett with a 10 foot pole.  It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants can do with him.

In college, Bennett’s numbers weren’t particularly impressive:

Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M Rec Yards TD
2005 18 162 3
2006 38 497 3
2007 49 587 4

The Cowboys, however, saw a massive tight end with really impressive athleticism and drafted him in the 2nd round with the thinking that they could mold him into a good receiver.  That never came close to materializing in four seasons:

Martellus Bennett, Dallas Rec Yards TD
2008 20 283 4
2009 15 159 0
2010 33 260 0
2011 17 144 0

I wanted to go back and look at the tape to see if what I saw in OTAs mirrored his game action, and really what I found is that he’s kind of a fascinating player.  I chose the Week 16 Dallas-Philly matchup, since he was targeted 6 times in that game.  There was one stretch in the 2nd quarter (three consecutive plays) where you can really see the good and bad of Martellus Bennett (You may need to use the full screen function):

Analysis after the jump…

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Random notes from around the NFC East: A new NFL profile pic legend is born!

- Apologies for the weak article production over the weekend.  Visited the parents, celebrated our cat’s 6th birthday (his name is Butters, and yes, we sang to him), had a birthday of my own yesterday (which was spent power washing the deck), etc.  Anyway, I’ll be ramping it back up this week.  There are more OTAs this week, and I’ll be re-watching a number of games from the 2011 season, so some film breakdowns will be on the way.

- Great statistical find by Rich Tandler of CSN Washington:

Robert Griffin III was the most accurate deep thrower in major college football last year. He completed 50.9 percent of his passes that traveled 25-plus yards. And rarely did he throw it up for grabs; his touchdown to interception ratio on those deep throws was 20-1.

Rich then goes on to wonder who will catch RG3′s deep balls in Washington.  I happen to think the Skins’ skill position players are much improved over last year, but they don’t have much in the way of scary vertical threats.

- Outstanding find by Eagles writer Jordan Raanan here:

Camilli’s profile pic is right there with the other former/present NFC East greats like OJ Atogwe and Josh LeRibeus.

- Good article here by my boy Lars on space players, and which Cowboys need to be the guys that make big plays when they get some room to operate in the soft areas of the field.  Lars has Miles Austin and Felix Jones earmarked as those kinds of players, if healthy.  I agree, however, Dez Bryant needs to step up there as well.  Looking around the rest of the NFC East, I’d say that Fred Davis will be that guy for the Skins this year, Victor Cruz was very much that guy for the Giants last year, and the guy that is as dangerous as anyone in the league if he gets some space is DeSean Jackson.

- Great film breakdown by Raf at Cowboys Nation, showing the X’s and O’s behind the play where Bear Pascoe hurdled Terence Newman last season.

More after the jump…

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On Mike Jenkins and compensatory picks

Last season, the Rams traded a 6th round pick (that could become a 5) for Brandon Lloyd. At the time, Lloyd was in the last year of his deal, and there was a very good possibility that he was going to walk in free agency following the season. The trade was lauded by NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi, who noted that at the end of the season, Lloyd was likely to get a huge deal somewhere and the Rams would be awarded a 3rd round compensatory pick in return.

Lombardi’s thinking, however, ignored one very important detail on how compensatory picks are awarded. In terms of being awarded picks for losing players, for every player you sign in free agency, that cancels out a player lost. Lloyd did indeed wind up signing a decent deal with the Patriots (3 years, $12 million), but the Rams also signed a large number of free agents that will cancel out the players they lost:

  • Cortland Finnegan: 5 years, $50 million
  • Kendall Langford: 4 years, $24 million
  • Scott Wells: 4 years, $24 million
  • Steve Smith: 1 year, $2.5 million
  • Jo-Lonn Dunbar: 2 years, $3.05 million

As a result, the Rams are highly unlikely to be awarded any compensatory picks next season.

Mike Jenkins is in a similar situation in Dallas. As we all know, Jenkins has one year left on his deal, and is unhappy that he has essentially gone from the best CB on the team to 4th in the pecking order in one offseason. There has been recent debate on whether or not the Cowboys should trade him, and there’s a thinking that if the Cowboys simply hold onto him and then lose him in free agency, they’ll be awarded a high compensatory pick.  A number of Cowboys writers are falling into the same trap as Lombardi.

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Should An NFC East Team Be On This Year’s Hard Knocks?

(Editor’s note): This is a guest post from my buddy Lars at Blogging the Boys. He’s new to Twitter, but should be a mandatory follow for any Cowboys fan, so follow away.

Every offseason HBO’s search for a team to feature on its popular “Hard Knocks” reality show generates countless headlines, as one team after another fills its PR void by announcing that it has declined to be part of HBO’s show.  Suspicious minds might wonder whether this is all part of a grand strategy to drum up interest for the show, with a carefully choreographed series of public rejections that ultimately result in a surprise pick for the show.

Michael Shain from the New York Post wrote earlier this week that HBO plans to wrap up a team by June 1. By now, the list of teams that have ruled out an appearance on the show looks a lot longer than any remaining candidates:

The series [...] has reportedly been turned down by most of the league’s A-list clubs.

The Jets [have] said no to a second appearance. The Broncos, Falcons, Texans, 49ers and Redskins have also turned down the show, according to reports.

I laughed, hard, at some of the teams Shain apparently thinks are A-list teams,  but after I caught my breath I wondered why nobody is talking about the NFC BEast teams.

The Redskins have taken themselves out of the running, or at least Mike Shanahan has taken the Redskins out of contention – not that he was ever asked by HBO in the first place. The Redskins’ website writes that Shanahan said “the show’s producers have not approached him about filming the Redskins this season”.

That leaves the three other teams in the NFC East.

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Colts reportedly have a trade offer on the table for Mike Jenkins

According to Adam Schefter, the Colts are going hard after Mike Jenkins, and have made “an offer that one source said ‘many teams would think is compelling.‘”

Jenkins has value to the Cowboys as a backup option to starters Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.  The Cowboys have been playing the “We’re not trading him” game for the past few weeks, but if the right offer came along, surely there’s a price.

Jenkins did not attend voluntary OTAs this week and is unhappy with his current situation with the team.  I may be in the minority here, but I don’t blame him.  Jenkins’ unhappiness, from the Cowboys’ perspective, is no reason to trade him.  However, his extreme unlikelihood to remain with the team in 2013 is reason to get something in return for him now, instead of getting nothing for him when his contract is up next year.

The Colts are an interesting team to have interest.  It’s a new front office, and the team moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4.  Surely there are players currently on the roster that don’t fit into the Colts’ plans.  To be determined if the Colts are offering a draft pick, a player, or a combination of the two.

Keep in mind that the Colts are unlikely to offer a high pick.  If you trade for Jenkins, you’re getting a player whose contract expires at the end of 2012, so if you’re willing to give up a pick, you’re also going to have to pay him “free agent money.”  The Colts are not going to seriously contend in 2012, and they know that, I would think.  They would have to really like Jenkins to make a substantial offer, as they have plenty of time to build.

The Colts were rumored to be interested in trading Dwight Freeney prior to the draft, but he’s due more than $14 million in 2012, so there’s almost no way the Cowboys could afford him as they’re already up against the cap.  After a quick look at the Colts’ roster, I think players like Austin Collie and Jerry Hughes might make some sense in varying compensation packages.

NFC East win total over-unders, and some NFCE fantasy football notes

The Skins were the only NFCE team to lose this week.

Vegas released their over-under on total wins for the season yesterday.  Naturally, we’re going to make our picks and argue in the comment section.  Ignoring the juice, here are the over-unders for the bEast teams (opinions subject to change):

Redskins – 6.5: They have a really good front 7 and a very under-the-radar, but talented set of skill position players on offense. Also, everyone craps all over their OL, and it’s fair to do so to some degree, but they suffered a bunch of injuries/suspensions last year, and had little continuity.  I think they will be better there this year.  And obviously, I need the obligatory “Rex Grossman won’t be their QB this year” comment. I just fear that secondary. Still, seven wins is reasonable. I’m bullish on the Skins. Over.

Cowboys – 8.5: As usual, we have a team here that is star heavy at the top, but has virtually no depth and won’t win many battles in the trenches. As a general rule of thumb, I always think Vegas over-values the Cowboys, by design. The Cowboys are the most popular football team in the world, and people bet with their hearts. Vegas knows this. Under.

Giants – 9.5: The OL has all the makings of being a disaster.  Hell, it was a disaster last year, and they won anyway. But that QB and that DL are both just too good to bet against.  Over.

Eagles – 10: Ten?  Come on, Vegas.  Give me a line with a .5.  This is team that is just too talented to think they’re going to only win 9 games (and yes, I remember that they only won 8 last year), but has too many nuclear possibilities (like Vick’s health) to have any sort of confidence in counting on them to get to 11. So… I’m going to go lame here… Push.

While we’re on the “gaming” topic, I figured we’d talk a little fantasy football.  As a disclaimer, I typically hate talking about fantasy football, and despise when people tell me about the awesome team they had in 2007.  But I do like to play fantasy football with friends/family.  So this may be a one-time thing.  I like to keep my strategies close to the vest, so I’m going out on a bit of a limb here hoping that my adversaries won’t remember in August who I said I liked/disliked in May.  That said, I’m bearish/bullish on the following players:

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My take on Hakeem Nicks’ broken foot: “Meh”

Last week, I wrote about the 10 players each NFC East team could least afford to lose to injury.  In the Giants’ edition of that series, I had Hakeem Nicks ranked 3rd.  Sorry for the jinx, Hakeem.

Nicks broke the 5th metatarsal in his foot today.  Obviously, this is not good news for the Giants, and for Hakeem Nicks.  However, (and this is easy for me to say), due to the timing, it’s not a big deal, in my opinion.  Hakeem Nicks is only 24 years old, but watching him on tape, you would never know it.  He and Eli Manning already have a great rapport.  Eli trusts Hakeem, and Hakeem always knows where he needs to be.  For a player so young, he’s extremely polished.

He’ll have surgery (a screw will be placed in his foot), and the prognosis is 3 months, which, going through the months in my head (May to June, June to July, July to August), will put him back on the field before the Giants host the Cowboys at home on September 5th.  That is assuming, of course, that everything goes well with the surgery and subsequent recovery.  It is also assuming that the foot won’t continue to nag him beyond the expected recovery period.

In the meantime, as a silver lining, the Giants will get a better look at the handful of receivers vying for the #3 WR spot.  That will be especially beneficial for 2nd year receiver Jerrel Jernigan and rookie Reuben Randle.  Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden are also in that mix.

For what it’s worth, the last time Nicks came back from an injury (he missed 2 weeks in 2010), he had 7 catches for 96 yards against the Vikings in a crucial game with playoff implications.

I don’t think he’ll miss a beat.  Just don’t give him a roll-a-bout.

Eagles OTA notes: May 24, 2012

Doo-raginique Rodgers-Cromartie

A lot on the QBs today.  Let’s just jump right in:

  • Nick Foles had a pretty ball today.  Couldn’t see who the receiver was, but Foles hit him about 30 yards down the sideline on a corner route.  Looked like the D was in Cover 2.  He dropped it in between the safety and the corner.  Perfectly placed ball with just enough zip.  After practice Andy Reid was asked about Foles, and he noted that Foles had a very high completion percentage in practice so far (the Eagles keep certain stats in practice).
  • The general consensus among us media types is that Mike Kafka looks like he has more arm strength this year.  He was asked about that after practice, and he agreed.  I wrote in the last round of notes that he probably had the highlight of the day on a perfectly placed deep ball to Marvin McNutt.  Kafka, as the 2, is getting far more reps than he ever has since he has been in the pros.  In 2010, He was behind Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick.  In 2011, he was behind Vick and Vince Young.  When you’re the 3, your reps are few and far between.  The jump to #2 drastically increases your looks.
  • Trent Edwards is brutal.  Missed 3 straight receivers in drills, with no defense on the field.  That’s the equivalent of a 6’9 power forward missing three straight dunks in the pregame layup line. And I’m not sure he’s capable of throwing a spiral.  I’d put his chances of making the team at somewhere around… oh… say… 0%.  I’d be surprised if he even makes it to training camp.
  • Vick had a pass batted at the line in practice today.  That’s not a big deal, but it does give me an excuse to note that batted passes were an issue last year.  He had 14 of them, according to Pro Football Focus, which tied for 2nd most in the league.
  • The D showed a lot of different looks today.  They were employing blitz looks in which the entire defensive line was standing up, so the offense has no idea pre-snap who’s coming and who isn’t.  Apparently, they did some of that yesterday as well.  I’m not sure if they plan on doing a lot of that in games this season, but they certainly have defensive linemen that are athletic enough to drop into coverage.  I think there’s just a lot of emphasis on giving the QBs a lot of looks under heavy pressure.
  • Jason Kelce is a great athlete.  The Eagles were practicing screens (with no defense on the field), and it’s impressive watching Kelce run out in front of LeSean McCoy.  McCoy running full speed would have blown right past guys like Jamaal Jackson and Hank Fraley back in the day, making his lead blocker useless.  Not so with Kelce.  Kelce can stay out in front of McCoy, allowing the RB to gobble up yardage while not wasting his lead blocker.

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