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.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Eagles, the Giants and Turnovers

In the NFL, turnovers can turn seasons around in both a positive and negative way as was the case last season with both the Eagles and the Giants.

Andy Reid sealed his fate in Philadelphia after his team posted just four wins in the 2012 regular season. Almost everything that could go wrong did in that fateful campaign, but at the top of the list was an NFL-worst turnover ratio of -24. In the first season of the Chip Kelly era, the Eagles turned things around with a turnover ratio of +12 and they also happened to win 10 games on their way to the 2013 NFC East title.

The Giants were favored by many to win the division title last season but a six-game losing streak right out of the gate quickly brought an end to those plans. A big reason for such a dismal start was a turnover ratio of -16. Eli Manning was the main culprit with 15 interceptions in those first six games. New York eventually cleaned-up its act to go 7-9 on the year with a turnover ratio of +1 over those last 10 games.

Below is a link to a recent article I wrote for Sporting Charts that takes a closer look at the impact that turnovers can have on a team's chances to win or lose in this league

Comparing NFL Turnover Ratios to Winning Percentage

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eagles Offseason Report- Lurie Opens the Wallet

Everyone remembers when Eagles' owner Jeffery Lurie went on a free-agent spending spree right before the start of the 2011 season (free agency had been delayed because of the NFL labor situation). His team was coming off a NFC East title after going 10-6 the year before. Many people, including myself, saw this excessive spending on some over-priced veterans as an apparent effort to buy a Super Bowl title. The results were disastrous in what ended-up being the beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.

Heading into the start of this year's free agent signing period, which gets underway on March 11, Lurie has already opened his checkbook, but for all the right reasons this time around. This past week the Eagles inked new deals with wide receivers' Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin as well as offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelse. Cooper became Nick Foles No. 1 target last season while Maclin was on the mend from a torn ACL. Having both of these playmakers in the fold for this upcoming season should only enhance a passing offense that finished 2013 ranked ninth in yards per game.

One of the biggest reasons that Philly went from 4-12 to 10-6 last season was much better consistency on the offensive line. Peters missed the entire 2012 season with an Achilles tear, but quickly returned to Pro Bowl form and Kelse was considered by many to be a prominent Pro Bowl snub. Either way, these two road graders are set to anchor the Eagles' offensive front five for the foreseeable future after signing long-term extensions.

Getting back to Maclin, he opted for a one-year contract as opposed to the four or five year deal the Eagles were looking for, but I believe it is still a good thing all around. He is coming off his second ACL surgery (one in college) and there are no guarantees he will return to the form that has accounted for 258 receptions and 26 touchdowns in his first four seasons with the team. If he lives up to expectations in 2014 there is little doubt that Lurie will pony-up the money for that long-term deal, but if he has lost a step the two parties can easily part ways.

Do not look for any major fireworks from Philadelphia when the free agent market does open for business later this month. Lurie and GM Howie Roseman are starting to figure out that the proper way to build a championship team is through successful drafts and spending money to lock-up your best players before they have a chance to sign with one of those free agent-hungry teams.