Saturday, April 12, 2014

Eagles 2014 Preseason Schedule

We will still have to wait a few more weeks until the NFL releases this year's regular season schedule, but the opponents for the Eagles' four preseason games have been set. Three of the four contests will feature some of the usual suspects that the Birds traditionally face in their tune-up games including New England and the New York Jets from the AFC East.

Philadelphia's preseason will get underway against Chicago with a trip to Soldier Field in Week 1. The last time these two got together was last December at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 16 of the regular season and the Eagles put on a clinic in how the game is supposed to be played with their most dominant victory of the 2013 season. When the smoke cleared the Birds ended-up on top 54-11.

Last year, Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly joined forces with New England's Bill Belichick to stage a series of inter-squad practices before both teams opened the preseason at the Linc. Look for the same arrangement this August as the two teams will mots likely get together for a few days before a Week 2 tilt in Foxboro this time around.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back on the schedule after a one-year hiatus in the Eagles' preseason home opener at the Linc. The third week of preseason games is traditionally the final dress rehearsal in which the starters tend to play deeper into the second half. The Eagles will be going up against a Steelers' team that has missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2000.

The Jets are the lone staple on the Birds' preseason schedule. This year's annual clash will take place in Philadelphia in the final outing before the games start counting for real the first weekend in September.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eagles Offseason Report- Drafting a Wide Receiver

In the wake of the whole DeSean Jackson debacle the one thing that is clear about this situation is that the Eagles will be looking to add a wide receiver in next month's college draft. The good news is that this year's draft is deep with quality receivers, but it remains to be seen which ones will still be available when the Birds go on the clock with the 22nd overall pick in the first round.

Clemson's Sammy Watkins is the top rated receiver in this year's draft class so unless the Eagles trade up into one of the top five picks he is going elsewhere. A couple of players that will hopefully be around when they do pick are Brandin Cooks from Oregon State and Marquise Lee from USC. The main reason I am pinpointing these two wide receivers is the fact that they both played in the Pac-12 which is head coach Chip Kelly's old stomping ground. He has already proven to have an affinity towards players from his old conference going back to his days at Oregon.

Cooks is cut in the same mold as Jackson at 5-foot-10 and 189 lbs. and he has demonstrated excellent hands to go along with 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash. He caught 128 passes last season for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is also on some other teams' radar as a top pick so the Eagles may still have to move up to board if they want to get him.

Lee has a bit more size at just under six foot while carrying 192 lbs. on his frame. While he does not have the same speed as Cooks, he has gained a reputation as being a playmaker during his career at Southern Cal. He is more athletic than Cooks and he can fill a number of roles in Kelly's dynamic offense including catching the ball over the middle and in tight traffic.

Either of these two players could be an excellent replacement for Jackson as a bona fide starter from Day 1. If you look deeper down the list of receivers you will find names such as Davante Adams from Fresno St, Donte Moncrief from Mississippi and Allen Robinson from Penn State. As I mentioned before, this draft is deep at this position so the Eagles should be able to add a player to their arsenal that will make everyone forget about the skills (and aggravation) that Jackson brought to the table.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Eagles Offseason Report- DeSean Jackson Kicked to the Curb

The Eagles' offseason was pretty much flying under the radar with the exception of the signing of running back Darren Sproles, but that all changed this week with the team's decision to part ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson by giving him his outright release with no compensation in return.

Rumors had been circling for weeks concerning a falling out between Jackson and head coach Chip Kelly. It was common knowledge that the team had been actively seeking a trade for the six-year vet who had earned Pro Bowl honors three times during the course of his career. Apparently a report that linked Jackson to a possible gang affiliation in his home town of Los Angeles was the tipping point that pushed owner Jeff Lurie into pulling the plug on one of his team's most electrifying players.

Anyone who read my previous post on this situation knows how I feel about Jackson. There is no denying that he is one of the top playmakers in the NFL, but so was Terrell Owens. I have never been a big fan of players that consistently put their needs above or at the expense of the team. Their never ending pattern of disruptive behavior when things do not go their way are not worth the headache no matter how much they bring to the table with their play on the field.

I still have vivid memories of the TO circus that featured videos of him doing sit-ups and push-ups in his New Jersey driveway instead of trying to help the Birds get back to the Super Bowl in 2005. Jackson was not nearly as flamboyant with his off-field shenanigans, but even his most die-hard fans would have to admit that he was filled with attitude and not always in a good way. To me, he was a major problem waiting to happen and something else tells me that this is not the end of the story when it comes to his alleged ties to gang members.

As far as replacing Jackson in Kelly's dynamic offense the Eagles are not nearly as bad off as some fans may think. They will get Jeremy Maclin back after missing the entire 2013 season rehabbing a knee injury and this year's college draft is loaded with some top-notch receivers that should still be on the board when Philly goes on the clock with the 22nd overall pick. The old adage that that 'there is no I in team' is alive and well in Chip Kelly's regime and that is a good thing. Just ask New England fans how that attitude has worked out for that franchise.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Are DeSean Jackson's Days in Philly Over?

It appears that DeSean Jackson will be playing somewhere else when the 2014 NFL regular season gets underway this upcoming September. In what has become an extremely terse situation between the big play wide receiver and the Eagles' front office, the latest report out of South Philly suggests that the two parties will part ways through a trade or an outright release.

Never known as a team player, Jackson started down the wrong road with his employers at the end of last season when he suggested that his current contract should be renegotiated after putting up the best numbers in his six-year career. Just a few years back he started to paint the picture that he was just another one of those prima donna wide receivers that never really cared that there is no I in team. He staged a brief holdout before the start of the 2011 season and then turned in a very mediocre effort with just four touchdown catches in 15 games. He eventually got paid, but he also branded himself as just another mercenary in the NFL.

There is no doubt that Jackson is one of the most electrifying players in the game with his blazing speed and big play capabilities, but just like TO before him, the added drama he brings to the table is just not worth effort of keeping him happy with a boat load of cash. Head coach Chip Kelly continues to build on the team concept he instilled in his first season in the NFL and keeping Jackson around after this latest disruption would only cause his program to take a step backwards with a franchise that is finally moving in the right direction. His up tempo, high-octane offense is predicated on having playmakers (plural). Jackson was a big part of that group, but definitely not the biggest.

It is a shame that the Birds will most likely get nothing in return for Jackson through a trade since it looks more and more that he will simply be cut, but I love the fact that Kelly is taking the bull by the horn by eliminating a problem that will just rear its ugly head somewhere down the road.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Eagles add another weapon to the arsenal

Everyone knows that in the NFL defense wins championships but do not tell that to Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly. The team's biggest moves so far this offseason have been to ensure that his up-tempo, high octane offense continues to roll next season after finishing 2013 ranked second in the NFL in total yards per game.

Before the start of free agency this past Tuesday, Philadelphia had already signed wide receivers' Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to new deals as well as come to terms on a lucrative contract extension with offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelse.

Thursday's big news was trading a fifth round pick in this year’s draft to New Orleans for running back Darren Sproles. He should be a perfect fit with starting running back LeSean McCoy, who put up some huge numbers last season, but also endured a bit too much wear and tear.

Both runners are similar in style with nifty moves and explosive speed and Sproles brings the added dimension of catching the ball out of the backfield. He only rushed for 220 yards last season on 53 carries, but he racked-up 604 yards through the air on 71 receptions. What makes his addition even more exciting is that he gained 507 of those yards after the catch. The possibilities of incorporating another playmaker into this offense are endless, but the best scenario could be to line-up Sproles and McCoy in the backfield at the same time and let opposing defenses pick their poison.

Kelly and GM Howie Roseman have not been completely one-sided in all of the team’s off field activity since the free agent market opened for business at 4 p.m. on March 11. The Eagles’ other player signings were targeted at improving the team’s weakest link; the defensive secondary. First, they came to terms with another Saint, safety Malcolm Jenkins. He spent his first five seasons in the NFL in New Orleans including the last four as a starter. Jenkins is coming off his best year as a pro with 68 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

The Eagles also announced that they signed free agent cornerback Nolan Carroll, who recorded three interceptions while starting 12 games for Miami last year. It is doubtful that he will fill a starting role in the Birds' defense, but he does add some much needed depth at the position as well as on special teams.