MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

This week, PK takes us inside his training camp tour, explains how the Bills are now Wildcat-friendly, tells us that the Eagles could still be under the cap, asks Vinny Cerrato about personnel (no, really), reveals Kyle Williams' other athletic pursuits, and discusses who might be part of the Hall of Fame's 2012 class.

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114 comments, Last at 11 Aug 2011, 12:18pm

1 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

King clearly doesn't play FF. Donald Jones, fantasy sleeper? Jones is a nice depth player for the Bills, and will likely see playing time, but to draft him is just silly.

Even in a 16 team league you're only going 64 deep with an average of 4 WRs, or the top 2 WRs on each team in the NFL. I'm pretty sure the Bills' 5th WR (or any teams' 5th WR) isn't going to crack that.

3 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency!/LesBowen/status/100562509735526400

"Hey, Peter King does a great job, but #Eagles sources tell me the team is NOT anywhere near $7.79 million under the cap, as Peter reported."

5 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

I really wish I could block any media interaction with Vinny Cerrato. The guy is a pure clown.

I have no doubt I could have done a better job then him.

9 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

"Early on, the Bills have been highly impressed with the strength and accuracy of Smith's arm."

As a Jet fan, I always loved Brad Smith, but there's a reason he was not drafted as a QB, and why he rarely threw the ball out of the Wildcat.

10 re: Catching the pigeons

I really think one of the best moves the Eagles made is bringing in Vince Young. Vick has rarely played 16 games and Young provides them with a backup will a similar skill set, which means that they will be able to install an offense around Vick's talents and still be able to run the same stuff if he gets hurt.

However, as the hype fades a little, I'm still not sure that Philly have done anything more than step up to the level of the big four from the NFC from last year (Packers, Bears, Saints, Falcons), though their shedule should help a little.

11 re: Catching the pigeons

OK, I'll throw in the Ronnie Brown signing for $1.25m, he gives them another run-pass option. If I had these guys I'd be running the craziest bootlegging, rollout, wildcatiest, shovel-passtastic offense the league has yet to see and with Maclin and Jackson stretching the field vertically, deffenses will have to stay home and defend every gap.

If they can set up some draws, screens and shovel passes to attack the weakside db blitz that they're going to see a hell of a lot of this year they should be fun to watch at the very least.

12 re: Catching the pigeons

Philly was already on that level. They were the 4th best team in the NFC last season based on scoring differential (behind GB, ATL, & NO), second according to DVOA (behind GB), third according to SRS (behind GB & ATL), and third according to GWP (behind GB & NYG).

13 re: Catching the pigeons

Yeah and their playoff loss to the eventually Superbowl champions hinged a pair of missed field goals. They were on the level of the best teams in the NFL last year and of the major players, they have clearly fixed their most glaring hole (CB) and done nothing but improve across the board - their 1st round pick o-linemen is supposedly coming on super-strong at camp and seizing the starting job even.

Thi isn't a borderline good team like the Bucs (or an arguably even more over-hyped team like Detroit) that is looking to take it to the next level - this one of the best teams in the NFL getting objectively better with very little downside to any of their moves. Ronnie Brown doesn't work out? Fine, he's the back-up RB. Same for Vince Young. Jason Babin or Cullen Jenkins is a one-year mirage? That's fine, the Eagles have all the major players from last year's d-line, including their 1st round pick who missed most of last season with an injury - a torrent of injuries aside, they won't be worse.

Now imagine if Vick actually learns how to call audibles and protections - teams won't be able to call the same blitz on repeat!

Wait - what the hell, just saw that you called New Orleans one of the "big 4" from last year. Come one, man, come on... They lost to a 7-9 team in the playoffs - that's an achievement that will for decades live in infamy. (And, for the record, the Kolb-led/DeSean Jackson-less Eagles beat the ever-loving crap out of the supposed "Big 4" Falcons - that Falcons team has my vote for biggest mirage in the NFC...)

55 re: Catching the pigeons

They were on the level of the best teams in the NFL last year and of the major players, they have clearly fixed their most glaring hole (CB) and done nothing but improve across the board

Across the board is seriously overstating it. The Eagles have decided that instead of once again trying the "let's replace our starting weak-side linebacker from last year" that they've been doing for the past ten years they're trying the tactic of "let's replace *all* of our starting linebackers from last year."

I can't call the current linebacker trio of Fokou, Matthews, and Chaney a clear improvement over Sims, Bradley, and Jordan. Two of the starters have never started a game in the NFL at their current position. They're starting a third-year seventh round pick, a second year seventh round pick, and a rookie fourth-round pick.

Total number of years of NFL experience for the entire training camp linebacker corps - 9 total guys: 12 years. Ray Lewis has played 4 more years in the NFL than every linebacker in Eagles training camp combined.

I mean, experience has shown that the Eagles don't give a crap about linebackers, but seriously, this is taking it to a new level.

And that's not even mentioning that their starting quarterback - on the wrong side of 30, and dependent upon his athleticism - got a year older (and they did not improve at backup quarterback - I think the contracts Young and Kolb signed demonstrate that pretty easily). Or the fact that their two kicking specialists have no experience in the NFL whatsoever. Or the continuing debacle that is the attempt to have two league-average safeties.

I dunno why, but this season has the feeling of an impending disaster. Usually I can spot one or two places where things could go monumentally wrong before the season (the Greg Lewis at punt returner disaster, the aforementioned safety problem) but this year I just see them all over.

58 re: Catching the pigeons

Look, you've seen my opinions on Philly before. I'm fairly level headed about this stuff. But we know that Philly doesn't care about linebackers, safeties, or specialists, from plenty of experience. And we know that not caring about those players has cost them games in the past. So now it looks like they're doing the kind of arrogant "yeah, these guys are freely replaceable" thing with all of those positions.

Seriously, show me where I'm wrong in my thinking. I look at the team and see a boatload of question marks. Everyone else is going "wow they got Nnamdi!"

60 re: Catching the pigeons

Allen and Jarret were both second round picks, so you can hardly say they don't care about the position. Henry and Henery were both the best collegiate players at their positions, so you can't say they don't care about specialists. I can't defend what they've done at linebacker, especially since Chaney and Fokou were pretty good at MIKE and SAM, respectively, last year and I'm not particularly wild about Casey Matthews. That said, what did you want them to do? Is Hillenmeyer the answer? Greenway was franchised, the Jets re-signed Harris, Washington re-signed Macintosh, Tulloch is lousy in coverage and it was a weak draft for LBs. Unless you really think that there was some Samuel for Patrick Willis deal as has been rumored on the message boards, in which case you need to slap some sense into yourself.

Of course, the team has questions. EVERY TEAM HAS QUESTIONS. Show me a team without questions and I'll show you either the Pro Bowl or a team from 70 years ago that no one remembers clearly. Your team has clearly made itself substantially better through the draft and free agency and did it while ADDING draft picks (six in the first four rounds) but you're pissing and moaning like they're the Bills.

Hail Hydra!

63 re: Catching the pigeons

Also, my thinking in regards to LB was "this is what they always do." It's not great, but I do think this year's line-up is better than last years, if only because I'm very high on Chaney and very, very low on Ernie "never in position" Sims. Fokou has show steady improvement and was a perfectly acceptable starter last year. The question is Matthews - but only one question spot at LB is generally less than the Eagles have going into the season...

64 re: Catching the pigeons

I would be the first to admit that I'm not going to be objective on this topic, but does anybody REALLY think the dogkiller can lead a team to a championship?

73 re: Catching the pigeons

I don't really think coming up small in big games is a fair way to go for the NFL. If you make the playoffs then your biggest game is your last game, and only one team wins its last game.

If I were an Eagles fan I'd be more worried that Vick is an old quarterback coming off a statistical outlier season on the positive side. Regression is probable.

89 re: Catching the pigeons

Probably around the advent of free substitution.

Post-30 mobile QBs who don't transition to a less scrambling role just don't last.

92 re: Catching the pigeons

In reply to by Pat (filler) (not verified)

You mean besides Roger Staubach, Jeff Garcia, Steve Young (check out his season as a 37 year old), and Rich Gannon? This is only looking at post-merger.

100 re: Catching the pigeons

In reply to by Aaron Brooks' … (not verified)

"who don't transition..."

I'm not saying that they don't have seasons where they scramble a bunch again. I'm saying that the successful scrambling QBs stop scrambling as much after age 30 and become more of a passer. Young, McNabb, Cunningham, McNair, and Garcia's careers all follow that pattern exactly. Gannon and Staubach's don't, but they weren't really 50+ rush attempt QBs in their rushing prime like the previous group was (and Vick way, way is), but even if you include them, you still have the majority of the rushing QBs that we think of as historically good reducing their rushing attempts around age 30-32.

The fact that Young scrambled a bunch in one season doesn't mean anything - I'm not saying they can't scramble after age 30. I'm saying that if they keep doing it, they would injure themselves out of the game.

101 re: Catching the pigeons

Throw John Elway and Randall Cunningham on that list too. I can't remember if Warren Moon was much of a scrambler.

Hail Hydra!

102 re: Catching the pigeons

"Old" is relative I should have said "past peak" since the only point I was trying to make was that his performance is likely to decline relative to last year's.

76 re: Catching the pigeons

Vick had 322 total yards and 2 TDs against the wire-to-wire poll leader, and wasn't on the punting team (2 TDs allowed) or defensive secondary (don't bother to cover Peter Warrick or anything...). Basically, only Vick and the run defense showed up for VT.

75 re: Catching the pigeons

For me his biggest issue in winning the big one is I just can't see him getting to the end of the year in good shape, he's only played in 16 games once in his career and he was pretty beaten up by the end of last season. If I were the Eagles, I'd give serious consideration to playing Vince Young in relief of him as you would with a second string running back. I'm not saying I'd do it but if I thought Young was up to it I might do it to increase the chance of Vick being healthy for the playoffs.

77 re: Catching the pigeons

You could make the unscathed argument about Rodgers, Cutler, and Roethlisberger as well. Seattle got their starting QB back only in their 1st playoff game. It's not just Vick who was getting banged up.

79 re: Catching the pigeons

But only Vick relies on running all over the place as a centrepiece of his game. He'll probably never be a great pocket passer because he can't see over his own offensive line. You've also named four other quarterbacks with crappy offensive lines, so they would get banged up.

93 re: Catching the pigeons

You're making my point for me.

Vick didn't get hurt because he scrambles, he got hurt because his line sucks.

96 re: Catching the pigeons

his line doesn't suck: the center who calls their protections got injured early in the season. Vick got thrust into the starting line-up without learning the line protection or audible calls, the coaches never gave him that responsibility and opposing defenses could call a blitz that worked over and over and over again - look at the Vikings game where they just kept calling the same corner blitz and it worked because neither Vick nor McGlynn the rookie replacement center had the authorization/ability to make protection shifts.

It sucks. It's not a shining example of the Eagles' offensive excellence. But it is not the same as the line sucking...

98 re: Catching the pigeons

The center always called the protections prior to 2011. No, his line just sucked. Well, half of it. Herremens and Peters were pretty damned good, especially after Peters came back from knee surgery. Three players started at least one game at RG and they were all terrible. Justice regressed from a solid 2009. McGlynn was serviceable at best and barely a speed bump at worst.

Hail Hydra!

80 re: Catching the pigeons

Allen and Jarret were both second round picks, so you can hardly say they don't care about the position.

Well, I think they're starting to realize that gasp, they can't find Pro Bowl level safeties at the 7-11. But that's not entirely the point - I do think that with Jarret and Allen they're trying to build a strong secondary, but this year? Not so much.

That said, what did you want them to do?

Keep one of the vets who've proven themselves useful in case things go boom? Letting Gaither go reminds me of when they let Simoneau go. Yeah, he's only a bit above replacement level, but it's at all three positions. Letting Mikell go seemed like they were basically conceding the next few years, but then bringing in Asomugha seems like the opposite. I just don't see anything coherent.

Henry and Henery were both the best collegiate players at their positions, so you can't say they don't care about specialists.

You don't bring in collegiate specialists. It barely ever works out, and if it does, you still end up getting performance basically the same as what you could get in free agency for exactly the same cost. Henery was a waste of a draft pick.

81 re: Catching the pigeons

Mikell was, I agree, a mistake and it will bite them in ass sooner rather than later. I like the safeties they have, but Mikell is better than all of them at this point. That said, with the corners they have and Asomugha, apparently, playing a rover position like Woodson, the safeties may not matter all that much.

But the linebackers? Eh. Bradley can't stay healthy and Sims is terrible. They still have the two best LBs from last season in Chaney and Fokou and they re-signed Jordan for depth.

Mike Nugent was a wasted pick on a specialist. Henery? That remains to be seen. I'd have preferred they waited a round before pulling that trigger, but with 11 picks, they were bound to do something weird.

Hail Hydra!

88 re: Catching the pigeons

Let's be clear here: the guy who started three games last year (the only three he's ever started) is one of the two best LBs they had?

Holy crap, they're worse than I thought!

Anyway, with Bradley I'm okay that they let him go. He can't stay healthy and he was going to be overpaid in the market (and the Cardinals gave him a 5 year contract). Sucks, because we could've used him for another one-two years until we figured something more solid out.

It's Gaither that bugs me. Gaither's the kind of guy they would normally keep around until people go "my God, this guy must have compromising pictures of Andy." He's played all three positions, has a lot of football smarts, is relatively durable, and could've been signed easily.

Yeah, he's not athletic enough to be an average-level starter, but so what? If they had kept Gaither and Jordan, I'd only disagree with it, not think they're insane. I mean, I'd expect a replacement-level linebacking corps from that group (Fokou, Matthews, Chaney, Gaither, and Jordan) but not much lower. From the current group it could be much lower.

I mean, I know that in the modern NFL a run game is basically an afterthought, but this group just screams "draw, screen, and just about any other play that requires the linebackers to be disciplined and marginalizes corners." The LBs and the safeties have only a little over an NFL season combined between all of them.

That's the entire middle of the field that has never had an NFL team dissect their technique and look for flaws. It's not going to be pretty.

Mike Nugent was a wasted pick on a specialist. Henery? That remains to be seen

It really, really doesn't. Henery will not be significantly better than the league average kicker (because there are virtually no kickers significantly better than the league average), and they could've gotten one of those for free, with less risk.

And I really do wish they would've at least kept Rocca so that the snap/hold team would have experience and at least Henery won't constantly be wondering if the ball will even be there. I'm expecting a snap/hold screwup at least once or twice during the year. At least they should've signed Rocca - he's a freaking punter. It was a 1 year, $1M contract he got from the Redskins. If Henry beats him out at camp, yay Henry, see ya Sav.

91 re: Catching the pigeons

I don't know how anyone who watched Sean Considine and Matt McCoy as starters could complain this year's linebackers or safeties. The safeties and LB's are young, but none are as flat-out worthless as those guys. I suppose Matthews could end up being as bad as McCoy, in which case you are right: the Eagles made a horrible decision. But Allen and Coleman is simply a better duo than Mikell and Considine - neither is better than Mikell, but Considine was a giant black hole of suckitude, a slow, little guy who could neither cover nor tackle, man with no sense of the game. I would even take Allen and Coleman over the 2006 Dawkins/Considine duo, but really that's a toss-up. McCoy was even worse than Considine - if you're talking "lose the Eagles games" level bad, that's the level you have to be talking. And, yup, the Eagles did indeed start Considine & McCoy so Reid's decisions as far as any of this are concerned can be questioned - but Allen, Fokou, Chaney & Coleman have to a man proven to be better, not only performed better already but shown more upside.

Look, I've seen bad, bad Eagles linebackers and safeties under Andy Reid's tenure and this just ain't that. This isn't the 2006 defense with Considine, McCoy, Trotter with blown out knees (which incidentally did cost them their playoff game) and late-era, contact-allergic Dhani Jones. At worst, this is "Mark Simoneau: MLB" experiment 2.0 and you don't even seem to be all that against such a thing. It's young guys with upside who have played at least ok so far - at some point, you want them to settles on a group of guys and start building a defense. It looks like they think they've found a lot of pieces for that group.

But let me see if I can understand your point: you wanted them to sign another "name" LB who underperforms expectations, like they do every year with someone like Takeo Spikes, Will Witherspoon and then Ernie Sims? A "name" would have made you feel more comfortable, like the position "was addressed?" There's a reason no one was sad to see those guys leave.

95 re: Catching the pigeons

One more thing: lost in all this discussion of the defense is the fact for the first time in a decade, they have a new defensive coordinator bringing in an entirely new scheme. McD was a Jim Johnson disciple and ran a more coverage-intensive variation on what Johnson did as far as blitzing and mixing up coverages are concerned. By most accounts, Castillo plans on running a more straight ahead defense, apparently modeling it after the one that Washburn ran the d-line for in Tennessee (although, I have now heard tons of conflicting info about what they are going to run, so who knows.) The only thing we know for certain is that it is very different from what McD was running.

This young group of guys might have indeed been a very terrible match for the Johnson/McD style of scheme... but we have no way of knowing how they will work for Castillo. Having a fast, intelligent MLB (who can blitz) and a powerful attacking SAM might be 100% perfect for their scheme. This more than any season in recent memory for the Eagles, a "wait and see" attitude is warranted - not just because of heavy upgrades at CB and across the d-line, but because we have no idea have the puzzle pieces will fit together for Castillo.

97 re: Catching the pigeons

I don't know how anyone who watched Sean Considine and Matt McCoy as starters

You've barely seen any of these guys as starters! Nate Allen's started the most games of the entire safety+linebacker group, and he had a season-ending knee injury his only year starting!

There were individual games where Considine and McCoy (who are two great examples of "suck") weren't awful. After 2 games in 2006, McCoy actually looked promising, with two forced turnovers in two games. That's the sample size you're dealing with with Coleman and Chaney, for instance.

I really, honestly have no idea how anyone can declare Chaney and Coleman (definitely), and even Fokou and Allen, better than anyone, except they're probably better than bench players.

At worst, this is "Mark Simoneau: MLB" experiment 2.0 and you don't even seem to be all that against such a thing

Yes, I am. Simoneau was a perfect backup linebacker - he was replacement level at worst at multiple positions. Letting Trotter go for Simoneau was impressively stupid: they managed to piss him off enough during negotiations that there was no way they'd be able to sign him. That kind of a problem is where I think the Eagles get their "cheap" label from around the league - they have a tendency to pay according to the market, rather than according to what the player's worth to the team.

But let me see if I can understand your point: you wanted them to sign another "name" LB who underperforms expectations

Oh, hell no. I wanted them to resign Gaither, and preferably another vet LB, to compete with the crop of rookies during camp and to provide a stable backup plan. Maybe a guy like Thomas Howard, or possibly (turning away my Giants distaste) Chase Blackburn. Guys with multiple years of experience at multiple positions, which allows you to shuffle things around a lot if things aren't working.

I'm probably the only guy in the world that would be made comfortable with 2 low-level vet LBs, but the idea is to be able to absorb some suckage and replace them with replacement level players who have had more than a week on the roster. Everyone is basically new, since Fokou was at SLB and Chaney was at MLB last year.

I should also point out that I'm not saying I'd be okay if they got them now. I wanted them at camp so that these guys actually had some competition so I could believe that they're at least replacement level. For example, right now Matthews is beating out a 7th round rookie. This isn't setting a high bar for his performance.

To me this is just looking like 2009 again, except they don't need the ridonkulous string of injuries to get to the "Let's bring back Trotter!" point.

105 re: Catching the pigeons

I just don't understand your point: you wamnt a guy like Blackburn, who is objectively worse than a Takeo Spikes/Witherspoon type to "compete?" And Gaither, who like Simoneau was given multiple opportunities to win the starting job and couldn't handle it?

Also, you know very well that Coleman not only started a few games, but played significant time in many others. I agree bringing Mikell back would have been nice, but I also have no problem with Coleman and Allen starting - they also used a high pick on a rookie to develop. Again, you seem really into the idea of having a mediocre stop-gap like Sean Jones hanging around until these guys develop and I just don't see the point or think it constitutes better "addressing" a hole. CB and pass rush from the d-line were the gaping flaws of this defense last year - they upgraded those positions a huge amount and certainly didn't downgrade significantly at LB or safety. Of the 5 S/LB positions, they are bringing back 4 players who started at them last year and a rookie that they are super high on. Why would that dash my hopes for an improved defense? Especially when all 4 of those returning players are young with a lot of upside. It don't look at any of them like I did Gocong or Macho Harris and think "ugh... there is a good chance this will not pan out."

And before you shit on 2009's defense, just remember that according to DVOA, it was significantly better than 2010's squad. And last year in 2010, they had big problems they didn't have in 2009 (like enough starter level CB's and d-line pass rush.)

99 re: Catching the pigeons

Gaither?! Gaither is the guy who chaps your hide? C'mon. Gaither was given at least three opportunities to start and couldn't keep a job, then he bitched about playing special teams. If they had to give Gaither any playing time this year, it would have meant the ceiling collapsed during a LB meeting and the top five guys were all dead.

Hail Hydra!

104 re: Catching the pigeons

If they had to give Gaither any playing time this year, it would have meant the ceiling collapsed during a LB meeting and the top five guys were all dead.

Gaither couldn't keep the job because the other guys were playing better. That's the entire point. Guys like Gaither are cheap, known quantities.

The Eagles have two known quantities right now at linebacker and safety. And that includes starters and backups: Akeem Jordan and Jarrad Page. We know they can start and not be total garbage at WLB/safety, and probably would make it through an entire season. We haven't seen that from any other of the thirteen players who make up the safety+linebacker set.

And considering Page lost the last two seasons to injury, I'm being really really generous - I'm basically just asking "has any one of these guys started a full season or close to it, and had 16-game seasons more often than not?"

Like I said, I don't have a problem starting kids with high upside. That's fine. But you need to have vets with a performance floor as backups. And the Eagles don't have that. They have rookies as backups to kids. I just have no idea where the optimism from Eagles fans is coming from. I'm not optimistic. I'm not terribly pessimistic, either, but I think they've got just as good a chance of going boom as succeeding.

I do think that what they did at linebacker and safety is ridiculously stupid considering they have two elite corners and a star QB who are in the prime to late prime of their careers. They don't have time to risk the implosion of a season due to kids not working out.

106 re: Catching the pigeons

But what are you suggesting they should have done? We know Chase Blackburn sucks, we know Gaither sucks, we know some washed-up safety they could have brought in sucks - having them hang around as back-ups or even worse win the starting jobs and continue to suck doesn't solve any problems it just proves they exist.

107 re: Catching the pigeons

Yes, and what we know of him is that he's mediocre on his best day. Fokou started most of the season and the defense got better when Chaney replaced Bradley. I'm pretty confident that both of those guys are better than Gaither. And for all that Gaither is a "known quantity," the Eagles could have started him when Sims was running around banging into things headfirst, Bradley got hurt or they bounced Jordan and Fokou between WIL and SAM. But they left his ass pinned to the bench. The Eagles knew what Gaither was and they knew they didn't want anymore of it.

Hail Hydra!

110 re: Catching the pigeons

With the signing of Steve Smith, I'm tempted to say "Pat wins, I just don't understand what the Eagles FO is doing." 2 million dollars for a guy that the Giants thought was going to miss between 4 & 6 games? A guy that will be, at best, their #3 receiver and who draws a large paycheck that is pretty startling slap in the face to the easily disgruntled DeSean Jackson? The only explanation is that Maclin's problems are really, really serious. Or that they want to make clear to DJax he's gone after 2010 and they view him as the one-dimensional deep threat he actually is.

Bringing in Vince Young? Ok fine. The Ronnie Brown. Ok, there's some potential he's got something left in the tank. But now Smith? I know these guys are all back-ups but they Eagles have brought in a lot of guys with scary injury histories and headcase problems, having too many guys like DRC & djax and Vince Young (and, hell, Michael Vick) on one team just doesn't seem like a thrilling idea. If this team gets out to a 2-3 start, I now expect a full on implosion. I can't help but start to agree that the Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith money should have been spent on some veteran LB presence... or jeez, I don't know what. Surely there must have been the defensive/LB equivalent of Steve Smith floating around out there, so high upside guy coming off an injury or something. I just... this team is now officially loaded with plays that could really easy bust or certianly underperform expectations:
Jason Babin
Cullen Jenkins
Ronnie Brown
Vince Young
Steve Smith
Casey Matthews
Kurt Coleman
Jamar Chaney

The offensive guys are all back-ups, but the defensive guys are all starters (especially if you consider nickel CB borderline starter position...) If they give Smith playing time over the very solid Avant and Smith flops... that's, um, a pretty easy mistake for them to have avoided.

112 re: Catching the pigeons

I just... this team is now officially loaded with plays that could really easy bust or certianly underperform expectations:

This is what I've been trying to say!

The other thing is that I dunno why, but Harris at least has a much lower opinion of Gaither than I do. "Mediocre" is not the same thing as "bust." Matt McCoy was a bust. He was really bad once teams figured out that he was a liability. Gaither's not on that level. He's just mediocre. He won't make any fantastic plays, he'll just do what he's supposed to do. And right now the team doesn't really have many players that have a replacement level floor, so I don't look at the team and see anything. I just see question marks, and that scares me. I don't want them to go out and get a great linebacker or safety, because I don't think one would be worth the cost (and would get labelled as "awful" even though, for instance, Takeo Spikes and Will Witherspoon weren't actually bad). I want them to go out and get a "not awful" linebacker or safety.

Also, you have to add Allen to that list. Have to. He started one season... and couldn't finish it with a season-ending knee injury. If he injures his knee again this year, would you really say "man, I didn't see that coming?" Considering they're still not letting him practice every day?

114 re: Catching the pigeons

Yeha, but where we differ is that I don't think giving young players with a lot of promise like Chaney, Allen & Coleman is bad. Fokou is fine. We're really talking about MLB and LB depth. You see the glass half empty, I see it as being... fine. There's water in there.

The Smith signing does make me say, "great, now we will have all-world back-ups on offense is everybody comes back and plays to potential!" But you're right, I would have been happier to see that money go to Lofa Tatupu with same kind of "hey, maybe he'll end up be worth something, if not, not big deal" attitude that drove the Smith, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young signings...

113 re: Catching the pigeons

Chaney started the second Giants game, the Minnesota game, and the Packers game. What, exactly, did you see in those games that made you think that the defense got better?

And the reason they left Gaither on the bench was because they still had other options. They let those options go. What do they do if Matthews doesn't pan out: move Fokou over, have Jordan start at WLB. OK, sounds great. Now what about if one of those guys gets injured? Uh...

The proper response would be "show me a team that wouldn't be hit if they had to go two-deep on their linebacker depth." And I agree. Except most teams aren't starting three guys who barely have a single season's worth of starts in the NFL combined. If the Eagles want to do that, they need more depth than just one utility linebacker.

16 re: Catching the pigeons

Yes, the Bears.

You might remember they only lost in the NFC championship game by a BJ Raji interception returned for a TD. Their defense dominated after the first quarter, if Cutler doesn't get hurt the Bears win that game. DVOA marks them down for a four game spell when their line couldn't block a thing but they really got their act together down the stretch. If you don't rate them then I suggest that you prepare to be suprised again.

15 re: Catching the pigeons

I would strongly disagree that VY has a similar skill set to Vick. His arm isn't nearly as strong or accurate, he doesn't have the innate running ability, nor the instinct to know when to run (admittedly it could develop) instead of taking off like a rabbit at the first sign of a hound, nor does he have half the leadership chops that Vick does.

I'm not even a Vick fan, and I think he's going to severely disappoint Philly fans this year, but I'm thinking VY has more of a Tavaris Jackson/Alex Smith/Pat White mashup of a skill set.

28 re: Catching the pigeons

Vick isn't that accurate either and he certainly is culpable of the rabbit thing. Is he really that much of a team leader? He is what he is at this stage.

Obviously there aren't going to be any quarterbacks with an identical skill set to Vick, he remains the best athlete ever to play the position, however, I think Young is as close as you're likely to get.

31 re: Catching the pigeons

Kordell Stewert was a superior athlete but inferior quarterback to Michael Vick.

As to best athlete ever to play the position, I'd be surprised if Jim Thorpse never took any snaps at QB, and if he did, I'd put him atop that list.

48 re: Catching the pigeons

I'm curious... what about Kordell Stewart makes you think he's a "better athlete" (although that's kind of tough to define) than Vick? Having watched both a lot, I can't really think of anything on the field that stands out for Stewart over Vick. Stewart certainly wasn't as fast, and didn't have as much of an effortless release (and maybe not as big an arm).

61 re: Catching the pigeons

Variety. Stewart was a pretty good receiver and serviceable punter. He also was good running the ball when lined up in a position other than quarterback. But mostly I just wanted to say it because it's at least debatable, right? Vick isn't head and shoulders above every other quarterback ever in athleticism; some like Stewart are pretty much neck and neck with him.

66 re: Catching the pigeons

I think Vick is head and shoulders above Stewart in terms of athleticism. I'm sure Vick could have played some wide receiver, but his coaches all felt that would be a waste of his talent when he could be your quarterback.

69 re: Catching the pigeons

I guess that it would all depend on how you define "athleticism". Generally speaking, the best athletes playing football tend to be cornerbacks. There's guys that were drafted in multiple sports. There's a bunch of guys in the league, generally 3rd down backs and slot receivers, who lack straight-line speed but put up ridiculous shuttle or vertical jump numbers.

That's not to say Vick isn't the best athlete in the NFL -- I think he might be. But five years ago, when we can assume Vick possessed more athleticism than he does now, the answer was probably Randy Moss.

70 re: Catching the pigeons

The question was, who was the best athlete to play quarterback. The fact that there are better athletes playing corner doesn't really matter.

74 re: Catching the pigeons

I'd just like to make it clear that when I referred to Vick as the best qb athlete that I include his arm strength and to a lesser extent his accuracy into the equation. Otherwise we'd be throwing Bobby Douglas's name about, probably more accurately than Bobby would.

78 re: Catching the pigeons

Cunningham was a better athlete than Stewart. Faster, bigger, better arm, and certainly a better punter. Other than being black, he was basically a Baugh-style QB.

17 re: Catching the pigeons

"Tavaris Jackson/Alex Smith/Pat White mashup." Ouch. Vince Young is probably not as good as Vick - but that's not the measure of his value. Is he a better back-up QB than the competition's back-up QB? I'd take him over every other back-up QB in the NFC East and the guys behind Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler...

But, it's funny - I have to agree that Vick is my main concern for the up-coming season. If you compare his DVOA from the first half to the second half of the year, he played a lot, a lot worse. And what I thought I saw happening on the field bears that out: once teams figured out a few easy blitz schemes to fluster him, he became hugely less effective - aggravated by the fact that he couldn't call audibles or change his line protections. If he hasn't/can't improve in that regard, he'll be a Top 15 QB, but not the Top 3 he was early in the year last year - that's a huge difference, obviously and will lead to more games like the loss to Minny and the near-loss/crazy comeback vs. the Giants. (And games like that you can't expect to win with any regularity.)

18 re: Catching the pigeons

Young is a different runner than Vick. He's a little more Randall. He's much bigger than Vick, for one, and while he doesn't have the same burst, he's got about the same top-end and is harder to bring down.

I can see the Tarvaris comparison, except he's substantially better than Jackson. He's way faster than Smith and much stronger than White.

21 re: Catching the pigeons

It's funny, I've been accepting all general "Vince Young sucks" tone of this thread because I didn't really follow his career, but I just looked up his DVOA/DYAR numbers and while they aren't spectacular, he's been a Top 15 QB basically his whole career when he hasn't been injured.

Last year he ranked #5 in DVOA, above Michael Vick. I might have just sold myself on this being a fantastic signing.

25 re: Catching the pigeons

Ability-wise, that is all true. But the issue with Young will be work ethic. He was hardly renowned for his study habits when playing week-in, week-out. He is hardly likely to better when he knows there is an only outside chance of him playing each week.

33 re: Catching the pigeons

So, let's say his DVOA slips a bit to where instead of top 15 he's just top 20 or 25. Still awfully good for your backup QB. I've never really followed him, but many of the complaints I see thrown his way seem manufactured. Could he really be a top 15 QB in DVOA without working at it? Or is that just something that got repeated enough to become "fact"?

83 re: Catching the pigeons

I don't think passing DVOA is a very good way to assess Vince Young. On the one hand, it disregards the direct value of his running, and the holes he opens up for his running backs with his own running threat. On the other hand, it also disregards the extent to which Titans opponents, facing a team with a great offensive line, bad receivers, a great running back and a quarterback who ran better than he threw, gameplanned for exactly that, flattering his passing efficiency. Combined DYAR would be better. Subjectively, as a fan of a division rival, I don't think Young is one of the 32 best passers in football, but I think when healthy and focused he might be around the 20th best quarterback.

24 re: Catching the pigeons

I think that one also needs to consider that VY will be playing for someone who has probably 'coached up' more QBs in the NFL today than anyone else currently.
Vick wasn't 'particularly accurate' before last year either and it isn't like VY's completion percentages are BAD.

27 re: Catching the pigeons

"probably" coached up more QB's? There's no comparison, I don't even know who's in the #2 slot behind reid. But, yeah, all things considered Young's DVOA and DYAR are a lot better to begin with than Vick's were in Atlanta.

By any measure I can find, Young is a perfectly acceptable starter-level QB who is an unreliable headcase. Sounds like a great guy to have on your bench and only need to rely on for a handful of games a year.

30 re: Catching the pigeons

Huh? What's Shanny's list? If you're putting Elway on there, I guess that works. I suppose I would put Garcia on Reid's, but only because he was considerd washed-up and couldn't even get a back-up job, whereas Elway was still a franchise player and didn't have any particular transformation under Shanny. And then who else? Jake Plummer? Jay Cutler? I'm not sure bringing in a highly touted 1st round pick who then under-performs to the point you get fired really backs up your point...

Martz is more intriguing a selection...

34 re: Catching the pigeons

Cutler didn't cost Shanahan his job. The team's collapse did, but that certainly can't be hung completely on Cutler. Griese was named to the Pro Bowl under Shanahan. That said, I equate Shanahan with bringing along running backs who excelled in his system but couldn't do anything for anybody else more so than bringing along QBs.

37 re: Catching the pigeons

I'm going to go ahead and say Shanahan's insane decision to sign Jake Plummer, who had no alternate suitor, to an enormous contract, and than scuttle him to overdraft Jay Cutler after two seasons probably cost him his job.

40 re: Catching the pigeons

Saying it doesn't make it true. That was never an issue in Denver and people liked Cutler. If they'd made the playoffs in Shanahan's last year he never would have been fired.

62 re: Catching the pigeons

I don't think there's anything wrong with drafting Cutler. He was projected to go late in the 1st round, Shanahan took him earlier...that's fine. I believe that you get the player that you really want, regardless of projection.

I think the problem was that he gave Plummer, coming off a season compiling a 65.7 passer rating (the value of which is debateable, the point is he was statistically one of the worst starting QBs in the NFL) a 7 year, 40 million dollar free agent deal three years before...the implication being that he felt Plummer was the right QB for his offense. Plummer's performance in those three years varied from above average to very good. Then, with plenty of holes on the roster, spending a first and third round pick to draft another QB?

If I'm the owner of the franchise, I question whether the man calling the shots has a plan, or is just throwing my money around on shiny new toys. Which could be overlooked, as long as the team's winning.

42 re: Catching the pigeons

And no clue where he gets the idea Denver overdrafted Cutler. He was only the 11th player taken--behind both Vince Young and Matt Leinart--and he made a Pro Bowl with them throwing for 4,500 yards and 25 TDs.

84 re: Catching the pigeons

I think it's fair to say that getting Griese and Plummer named to pro bowls is an impressive achievement; the question is how much to attribute to Shanahan and how much to Kubiak. Kubiak has since gone on to get vastly improved (though still bad) performance from David Carr, overseen Matt Schaub's development into a borderline pro bowler and made Sage Rosenfels look an awful lot better than he really is.

Martz also makes nearly everyone look better, and developed Warner and Bulger. And let's not forget Holmgren. I don't think this is open-and-shut for Reid.

26 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency!/SI_PeterKing/status/100675133169086465

"RT @beezhouse27: Care to retract your completely inaccurate calculations of the Eagle cap? ... Absolutely not, but thanks for the offer."

What an ass.

35 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

Are you referring to PK or the commenter? I don't know many people who'd be pleasant when approached in a snarky manner like that. "I think you may have miscalculated the Eagle's cap" or "Trusted Source ABC has the Eagle's cap at X" might have gotten a better response. But he got back what he'd invited.

57 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

They could both be right, actually. Teams aren't required to borrow $3M from future years this year. If the Eagles aren't willing to do that (when have they ever been willing to do something like that?) then they're more like $4.5 million under the cap according to King. has them at $4.8M (including the $3M exemption) but that's with several unknowns.

I've got a feeling that King's source double-counted the exemption, though, since it looks like he's almost exactly $3M too high.

39 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

The Journal Sentinal online has an interview with Bob McGinn about his winning the Dick McCann award for football journalism. At the end McGinn credits Ron Wolf always returning his calls and never holding a grudge.

44 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

"Think we shouldn't do anything about gun violence in this country? ... We've got to do something to take guns out of the hands of gangs and other young criminals in this country."

Is there anyone out there advocating gang violence and criminal gun possession? Is he really arguing against the imaginary keep-guns-IN-the-hands-of-violent-gangs crowd?

I'd worry about the soapbox collapsing under his weight, but all that hot air probably counters some of the downward cankle force.

87 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

Yeah, i wasn't trying to stir anything up, i was just commenting on the straw-manly nature of his statement without taking a pro/anti-gun control stance, although we did have an interesting discussion on FO about firearms following the Marvin Harrison incident a few years ago without(to the credit of FO's commenters) raising much political fervor.

I would have reacted the same way if King had claimed to occupy a controversial position against compulsory female circumcision, for example, or child labor in coal mines.

65 Re: MMQB: How One Team Prepared for Free Agency

I'm going to guess that the one team is the Patriots. And also, Peter King likes a new microbrew that he discovered near Pats training camp.