Back during training camp, I had the chance to sit down with members of the Eagles scouting department. This was a rare opportunity for media, so I'm glad I was able to take advantage of it. I heard from a number of Eagles personnel. There's a lot to mention, so let's jump right in:
(Allow me to apologize. This is a post I meant to have up much sooner. I didn't get around to it as soon as I would have liked to. I still think you'll find the information interesting.)
General Manager, Howie Roseman - (Picture)
• Howie emphasized the importance of "traits" when scouting players. Specifically for OL: feet, length, size.
• He's dealt with schools who don't give information (character wise) on their players. Howie said it's possible they will pass on players they don't feel comfortable with the background information they can get on him.
• On the balance of character/talent: "We put a list of criteria of things that we can't get over. There are deal breakers for us."
• Howie talked about the role of analytics. He said he feels its the way the world is going: important to combine the objective (analytics) with the subjective (watching tape).
• Howie said Alec Halaby (mentioned later) is a "safeguard" for their staff. He does a stellar job of bringing objective information during decision making.
• The role of analytics in football compared to more analytic friendly sports like baseball and even basketball was discussed. In baseball/basketball, advanced stats are more publicly accessible and accepted. Football is more of a challenge, Howie indicated.
• "Chip is a great communicator. He's very clear on the players he wants."
• On the top traits he likes in a QB: "Well certainly accuracy is an important skill for any offense, our offense. Decision making, anticipation, feet, feet goes with mobility. I think a lot of people, when they think about an athletic quarterback they just think of straight speed, but having great feet is extremely important. You talk about a guy like Nick Foles who was recruited to play Division I basketball at Gonzaga and Georgetown. People get on Nick for his athletic ability and you all have to do it ask Derek Boyko [Eagles PR guy] what kind of basketball player Nick is on our basketball team.
• "For us, the big part of analytics is making sure that the tape matches the measurements. When I look back at some of the mistakes that not only we have made, but have been made around the league, a lot of times you look at guys that flash on tape. Maybe they show incredible toughness. Maybe they dominate a low level of competition. But when you look at their measureables, there's very few, if any, players succeeding with those sort of traits. So [Alec] is a safeguard for us. He makes sure that we're just not looking at the tape. You talk about the percentage of hitting [on a pick] in the draft, and hitting on a first round pick in the draft is 50 or 60 percent in the first round. Now if you take a guy who doesn't have the measureables that the players who are successful at that position, you're decreasing your odds again. So now you're talking about taking the 50 percent down to maybe 20, 15, 10 percent. And no matter how much you like that guy you probably have to let him go."
Director of College Scouting, Anthony Patch
• On Chip's specific criteria in player's measurables: "You've seen our D-Line and our corners. [Our corners are] more bigger, taller, more lanky. Our front [seven] is bigger. No [Mike] Pattersons, no [Derek] Landris, [no Cullen Jenkins]. We're bigger and longer and stronger. That's come with the 3-4."
• On the transition to 3-4 defense: "We want to win now. We want to do that. Obviously that's what our goal is and that's what we're expecting. At the same time we know it's going to be a little bit of time before we get this thing going and get the right personnel. We can't change it with the snap of a finger. We're plugging away and going to keep grinding until we get the right guys and the best talent. Whether it's a first round [pick] or a free agent."
• On smaller players: Patch said they ideally want bigger players, but didn't say there was a specific cutoff. Mentions Brandon Boykin, a smaller guy, as a player who's had a good camp.
• On character concerns: Patch said they do background checks on players through a number of sources. Specifically mentioned investigating players on the internet. He said they have discussions about players with "red flags".
• On what he likes about scouting: "You're seeing new players every day. You're seeing all of the positions. You're meeting with new staffs and coaches. I'm a firm believer that teams are built through the draft."
• On Lane Johnson: They were impressed with his workouts, his temperament, his versatility.
• On his impressions of Chip: "I think he's intelligent, high-energy. He's a guy's guy. He's a good listener."
• On a player's high school ranking: They do research on that and list it with the player, but it's not incredibly valuable to their process.
• Most important qualities in a QB: "Obviously leadership, presence, release. How he throws the ball. Game management. Winning. We want a winner. Feet. Mobility. Durability. Overall intangibles. We want a strong leader who will command the huddle."
• On the role of special teams in the draft process: Patch said it's important. Mentioned WR, LB, and CB as specific positions where that's a factor.
• On medical risks: He mentioned the importance of Chris Peduzzi and his staff's work at the NFL Combine to check a player's health.
• On "need": Patch said they always take the best rated player on their board. When teams reach for a "need" at a certain position, "that's where mistakes happen."
• Each year prior to the draft, especially as the draft gets close, you see rumors about certain players rising or falling on team's boards. Patch made it sound like there's not much to those rumors as the board is usually set by a certain time.
Vice President of Player Personnel, Tom Gamble - (Picture that was rudely interrupted by JimmyK)
• Gamble said they have an "emergency board" ready should they become light at a certain position on the roster. Said they're constantly updating the list.
• Howie and Gamble are in constant communication. Their offices are right next to each other.
• Gamble made it sound like Howie tried to pry him away from San Francisco a number of times before it finally happened this year.
• Gamble talked about how former Eagles HC Buddy Ryan was a great talent evaluator.
Special Assistant to the GM , Alec Halaby - (Picture)
• "You see what's on the tape and you augment and enrich it with the data and I feel it enriches the analysis and kind of guides you with the final evaluation."
• On advanced stats: "It's challenging in football because it's 11 on 11. It's inherently a complex thing that's happening [compared to baseball/basketball]. As in terms of a single number [like WAR in baseball], there isn't a holy grail or a magic bullet."
• Alec said the most alignment he has with Chip Kelly is the "science over tradition" mantra. Surprise!
That's it for the quotes. Lots of different good nuggets in there.
As you can see, analytics were a big topic of discussion. I'm the one who asked Patch/Roseman about QB skills because the Eagles may not have their long term answer at QB on the roster. I'm curious as to how they will possibly make the decision to draft their QB of the future in an upcoming draft.