Where They Stop, Nobody Knows

Sheil Kapadia describes the latest movement in Linebacker Musical Chairs™. At least Ryans is back as a three-down player again:

When Juan Castillo asked for the first-team nickel defense, Chaney was the man called on to go in alongside DeMeco Ryans. Up until today, Brian Rolle had been occupying that spot at Lehigh. And in the spring, it was rookie Mychal Kendricks.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Chaney said, when I asked him if he expected to be part of that package for the next few days. “I just do what they tell me to do. Whether I’m out there with the twos or the ones, I just go out there and do my best. My job is just to make the decision hard on them.”

(Note that I resisted excerpting just the first part of Chaney’s quote.)

Adventures at Summer Camp: Lehigh Day 1

Because someone has to read all the news coming out of the Eagles training camp.

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Confirmed: DeSean Jackson let frustration over his contract hurt his performance:

“Human nature-wise, yes it affected him,’’ Culley said. “It did. He tried not to let it affect him. Sometimes he didn’t do a very good job of that. It affected him in meetings. It affected him on the field. There were days when it didn’t. But it made him inconsistent. And that’s where the human nature part of it comes in.”

“I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to maybe save himself because (he was thinking), ‘I’m not under contract and I don’t want to get hurt,’’’ Culley said. “I don’t think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, ‘I don’t want to get hurt because I don’t have a contract.’ The first two-and-a-half years he was here, that wasn’t an issue. A couple of times last year, that came up. And I believe it came up simply because of that.”

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Punters, ahoy. The Eagles brought in not one, not two, not three, but four veteran punters for tryouts yesterday. It’s not that surprising once you understand how bad Chas Henry was last year. Reuben Frank says the most likely candidate to sign is former Pro Bowl Cowboy Mat McBriar. I honestly didn’t realize he had fallen off last year and was cut. Turns out, he couldn’t lift his foot.

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The Felony That Wasn’t. I love how the charges were dropped against Dion Lewis because the DA concluded there was “no evidence a fire alarm was ever pulled.”

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Backup Running Backs Will Push… Who? I absolutely don’t understand where this headline comes from. Sheil’s replacement isn’t looking so hot.

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Speaking of Mr. Kapadia, he brings us a great quote from Howard Mudd on where Danny Watkins is in his second year. Sounds like the mental side of the game is the real roadblock for our friendly neighborhood fireman:

“Comfort in the position, eliminating doubt about himself,” Mudd said. “That just happens to players. That just happens. That’s part of the growing process. I call that the valley of darkness. You get somewhere and then you start doubting yourself, doubting, doubting… and then the ball is snapped and you don’t have a clue where you are. You can be very amateurish, if you will. All of a sudden, it starts to click again and you quit doubting yourself. Do well, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, you get there. So Danny, that’s what I think the offseason’s done for him.”

Jimmy Kempski tells us that Mudd also alluded to the Vandervelde-Reynolds backup center competition as the position battle he’s most looking forward too. I’m not sure if that’s positive or depressing. Final Mudd note: I discount every positive thing he says about Demetress Bell by half. There’s only one Jason Peters, and unfortunately he couldn’t keep his balance on a Roll-A-Bout.

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In other meta-reportage, Jimmy needs to stop wasting his time talking to guys like Keenan Clayton after practice. Clayton’s competing with Moise Fokou for the coveted “last linebacker cut” trophy. Then again, at least our favorite NFC bEast blogger didn’t get stiffed like ol’ timer Paul Domowitch.

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Rampant Tight End Speculation! The Eagles have now been linked to Visanthe Shiancoe and (gag) Jeremy Shockey. Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the Brett Brackett hype was purely media-driven. No one? Good.

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Andy Reid Weight Loss Watch. He totally walked home from practice, guys.

Birds 24/7

It’s rather sparse now, but Sheil Kapadia and Tim McManus are live at their new Birds 24/7 blog at Philly Mag. They’re good guys and good writers.

Bookmark it.

Keep an Eye Out

Sheil Kapadia announced today that he’s leaving his Moving the Chains blog behind at Philly.com. But what could have been a dreary day for the Eagles blogosphere instead became a bright one. Turns out that Sheil and 97.5 The Fanatic beat reporter Tim McManus will team up to cover the Eagles with a new blog at Philadelphia Magazine.

Kudos to both of them, especially friend of the blog (and Eagles Almanac author) Sheil, who now gets to write about the NFL full-time (to his readers’ benefit). Be on the lookout for when they kickoff in a few weeks.

Introducing The Eagles Almanac 2012

Eagles Almanac 2012Today I’m proud to introduce Eagles Almanac 2012.

This is a project that that has been in the works secretly for months, a collaboration between 10 of your favorite writers, bloggers, and reporters to create the single best, most comprehensive guide to the 2012 Philadelpha Eagles season. The book, which you can download now as a PDF, is more than 80 ad-free pages of absolutely wall-to-wall Eagles content. There’s statistics, analysis, opinion, predictions, and even a dash of personal reflection thrown in for good measure.

The Eagles Almanac features long articles and in-depth essays on all the biggest offseason questions, and provides insight into a whole host of topics. And it does it all in a beautiful, magazine-quality layout:

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I’ve personally taken on the task of editing and publishing the Eagles Almanac, but all together it was a collaborative effort between myself and a bunch of fabulous authors:

Mike Tanier (Football Outsiders and The New York Times), broke down the failings of Juan Castillo’s defensive play calling.

Tommy Lawlor (Iggles Blitz) penned a comprehensive draft review, as well as a personal recollection of the 1992 Eagles season.

Sheil Kapadia (Moving the Chains) analyzed what exactly happened to Michael Vick last year.

Jason Brewer (Bleeding Green Nation) looked at how 2012 is shaping up to be make-or-break season for Andy Reid, after 13 years on the job.

Jimmy Kempski (Blogging the bEast) put together the only NFC East preview you will ever need to read.

Tom McAllister (Bury Me In My Jersey) discussed the fragility of rabid Eagles fandom at age 30.

Derek Sarley (IgglesBlog) asked if Nnamdi Asomugha is on his last legs, and wondered what’s going on with Evan Mathis.

Sam Lynch (IgglesBlitz) looked ahead to the team’s problems and potential in 2013 and beyond.

Gabe Bevilacqua (IgglesBlog) gives advice for living in a (cruel) world where the Giants have won two of the last five Super Bowls.

And your truly examined LeSean McCoy’s breakout 2011 season and how he can actually improve from here.

Plus so much more! Given the hard work that’s gone into this book from all of us, I think it’s a steal at our price of $4.99, and I hope you think so too. At the end of the day, it’s a chance to get more top-notch Eagles content and support your favorite writers at the same time.

Buy the Eagles Almanac 2012 today!

(And while you’re at it, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.)

Banner, Dawkins and Business in Philadelphia

I’ve been waiting for the former player reaction to Joe Banner’s departure and now we have Brian Dawkins’s comments on 97.5 The Fanatic, as recorded by Sheil Kapadia:

"I just think that the way things have been done for so long there, and we did have some success, but the way that some of the guys that are in house had to always scrap, fight and do different things in order to just get a deal, it kind of wears on guys," Dawkins said. "And that was really the philosophy of this team, the way that they did things. I’m not saying that it’s going to change 100 percent going forward. The thing that I would love to see is guys in house be able to be kept. That was one of the things that always kind of frustrated me as a player, that guys who are in house and doing everything they can to improve the team are let go pretty easily, and then you go out and pay big bucks for free agents coming in."

"When you feel like every guy that you see on your team constantly has to go through the same ringer and have the same conversations and have the same type of dealings that you have, it’s a frustrating thing," Dawkins said. "I just know that certain situations and certain things could have been handled differently, and there would have been a completely different feeling about doing business in Philadelphia."

Tommy Lawlor also commented on this yesterday, and I think he comes across as defensive. Yes, the players he listed — such as Vincent, Douglas, and Staley — were ones the front office made the right call on. But what about Jeremiah Trotter, whose absence hurt the Eagles defense on their Super Bowl run? What about Sheldon Brown, whom the Eagles thought they could replace with Ellis Hobbs and Dimitri Patterson? What about Dawkins and Quintin Mikell, both of whom probably deserved another couple of years? What about Banner’s incalcitrance toward DeSean Jackson while paying Steve Smith more than $2 million?

Even more than any individual player, it’s the negative attitude in the locker room that really hurts. Healthy businesses in every industry have to make tough choices and sometimes let people go. But if employees — especially key performers — feel disrespected, that’s going to haunt you in the long run.

Update: Some more choice quotes from Trotter and Brian Westbrook:

"It was hard for players to trust the front office… Even when you let guys go at the end of their careers, there’s a way of doing that," Trotter said. "The way Brian Dawkins left, there’s no way that he should have been ran out the door the way he was. Or if you’re going to let him go, just say ‘hey, we’re going to move in a different direction.’ Don’t tell the public that we offered him a good contract, but he didn’t want that."

"And for him, it was a straight business," said Westbrook. "It was by the numbers, and the problem that you have in that as a player is you build relationships, so it’s not necessarily only by the numbers. There’s a value having Brian Dawkins on that team, even though he’s not the guy that he was at 25, and by the numbers at 33, he should be declining in his play. It’s a value of having those types of guys on your team instead of letting him to go to Denver and allowing him to go to two Pro Bowls after that."

Bye McNabb and Kolb, Hello Defense

Sheil Kapadia has the breakdown of the complete haul the Eagles received for our revered blog namesakes:

McNabb and Kolb = Nate Allen, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Casey Matthews, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin, and DeMeco Ryans

Remains to be seen how all of these players will turn out but on the surface: not too shabby.

Defensive Draft Prospects in 140 Characters or Less

Sheil Kapadia:

Greg Cosell of NFL Films has been Tweeting out notes on draft prospects while watching film the past few weeks. Here’s a roundup of his thoughts on defensive players, along with my Eagles slant on each position.

Great draft resource for those wanting short takes on all the defenders the Eagles might be interested in the early rounds.

Training Days With Luke Kuechly

Sheil Kapadia:

Essentially, Kuechly runs through a mini-combine on a daily basis. And he’s not alone. While there are currently 30 prospects training at IMG Academy, there are 300-plus training around the country. The combine presents a series of predictable tests. It’s the job of agents, trainers, coaches and advisers to make sure there are no surprises, that the prospects know exactly what they’re being asked to do when the spotlight’s on them.

Great breakdown of a combine trainee’s daily schedule. Boston College’s Luke Kuechly makes almost too much sense for the Eagles in the middle of the first round.

Mirror Image in Houston

Sheil Kapadia, with a great counter-example to the Eagles lockout/offseason change excuse:

It’s hard to look at the Texans’ defense and not think of the Eagles. Both teams brought on new defensive coordinators in the offseason. The Eagles went with Juan Castillo, who had never done it before. The Texans went with Wade Phillips, who had been a head coach or defensive coordinator for the previous 29 seasons. Both teams added free-agent cornerbacks. The Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha, who didn’t meet expectations in his first season here. And the Texans added Johnathan Joseph, who was named a second-team All Pro. But maybe most importantly, Houston got immediate contributions from rookies J.J. Watt (1st round, 11th overall) and Brooks Reed (2nd round, 42nd overall). The pair combined for 11.5 sacks. The Eagles have drafted 14 defensive players in the past two seasons, and I wouldn’t be comfortable saying any of them (except maybe Briain Rolle) played at an above-average level in 2011. New coordinator, new personnel, shortened offseason, young contributors, and the Texans improved dramatically on defense.

Who Would Have Thought

Sheil Kapadia, at Moving the Chains:

The Eagles have given up 22 passing touchdowns, tied for second-most. And opposing QBs have a 91.4 rating. That’s a worse mark than last year (80.8). Who would have thought that they would replace Dimitri Patterson with Nnamdi Asomugha, add Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, improve the defensive line, blitz less and still be an easier team to pass against than they were in 2010?

That pretty much sums it up.

A Second Look for Sacks and Selection Bias

Michael Vick Philadelphia Eagles Sacked Statistics

I’m a big fan of the Moving the Chains blog by Sheil Kapadia. It’s nice to see a member of the “lamestream” Philly sports media embrace statistics and the fan’s perspective.

Which is why I’m conflicted about Sheil’s post yesterday, “Why Vick was sacked 34 times.” On one hand it shows some great initiative and effort to go back through all the of the Eagles sacks in 2010. But the analysis lacks context, and therefore the numbers are misleading.

Kapadia broke down Vick’s sacks by the number of opposing rushers. He was sacked 12 times with four rushers, 11 times with five rushers, and seven times with six or more rushers. That’s interesting information, but it’s incomplete. Without any context, it looks like the Eagles gave Vick the least protection when faced with minimal pass rush. But that’s not true.

I don’t have the information for last season yet, but I compiled Football Outsiders information on number of rushers from 2009 (in FOA 2010). Teams averaged four man rushes 60 percent of the time. They blitzed one extra player on 24 percent of pass plays, and rushed two or more (six players plus) just under 10 percent of the time. In other words (not to blow your mind), most teams don’t blitz anywhere close to the majority of the time.

It’s important to note such a fact when you’re listing total sacks. The Eagles likely faced four man rushes about 60 percent of the time — but only gave up 40 percent of their sacks on those plays. Meanwhile, about 60 percent of Vick’s sacks came on blitzes, even though blitzing was likely no more than 35 percent of the time. Suddenly, it looks like blitzes were a much bigger culprit for those sacks than we originally thought.

Now perhaps the Eagles were blitzed more often than most teams, or there was some other anomaly. The truth is that just looking at single set of plays that resulted in sacks is a crude and selection bias-inducing measurement. It might look like there’s correlation there, but you have to step back and consider all of the data for a more complete picture.

I’m hopeful that Sheil’s follow up post will give more context along these lines.

Photo from Getty.