It’s been nearly a decade since the Eagles had a stable secondary, in not just consistency with the lineup but with dependable players. We knew going into this season that we’re going to have to wait another year for that to happen, but at least with young players in Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, there is real hope for 2018. In the meantime, we’re prepared for a rough season, but it might be even worse than we expected.
The Eagles have continued to overhaul the secondary as camp as progressed, releasing veteran Dwayne Gratz and bringing in another former Jim Schwartz player in Corey Graham and journeyman Tay Glover-Wright. Whether through trading for a guy who was going to be cut or roster cut down waivers, another move is a good possibility. At this point, Patrick Robinson is looking like a longshot to make the team. And as we’ve discussed before, there is a chicken and the egg scenario going on.
The focus of the improved wide receiver group has largely been Nelson Agholor, however, it seems like receivers across the board have made significant improvements. Johnson looks better, as do players who were here last year as well, like Bryce Treggs and David Watford.
I think a lot of the credit has to go to receivers coach Mike Groh. Doug Pederson agreed with that notion to some degree, but he also noted that it's those players' second year in the system.
"Mike is a great teacher, obviously," Pederson said. "The other thing, too, is that they're in the system for the second year. By the time we get to training camp, our players have repped these plays countless times, so the information is very familiar to those guys, and when I can rest a guy like Alshon or Torrey for a day, these younger guys get a lot more reps."
I have no doubt that Kempski is right about that the WRs looking better simply through competent coaching. Greg Lewis was unqualified, while Mike Groh was a good hire with a good future ahead of him (his next stop is probably a college OC) and in Agholor’s case his first WR coach was really an OL coach (thanks Chip). But this is also a product of going up against the worst set of CBs in the league, some of whom also have the second year in the system boost that Pederson points to, and they have had continuity with their coaching staff. This is where preseason games have some value: they (and the joint practice with the Dolphins) are the only time when the Eagles WRs will go up against a decent measuring stick.
For the corners, a long season has already begun. Don’t fret it too much. Think of the corners as the Sixers: there’s a really good but injured prospect waiting in the wings, some interesting complimentary pieces and a few veterans to keep seats warm.
1 So far, so good
The first full week of training camp has come and gone, and it’s great news: nobody suffered a serious injury. That’s the best news a team can have, and if it continues over the next four weeks then the Eagles will be in good shape. Already one playoff contender, the Dolphins, are looking at the strong possibility of a wasted season with Ryan Tannehill’s injury.
2 The Cowboys have discovered basic kinesiology
Wow guys, Dallas has realized that it’s good when professional athletes are good at being athletes.
According to Heath, there are plenty of benefits to a secondary filled with leapers. Most importantly: Since modern quarterbacks have become so efficient and accurate that they typically pass as far away from the defender as possible, a quick leap — either horizontally or vertically — gives the quarterback a smaller window to throw to and disrupts the timing. “It gets the quarterback uncomfortable,” Heath said. “The ball is never thrown to us. We have to be reactionary all the time, and the jumping ability comes in because these good quarterbacks are going to put it in a spot that is hard to get to no matter how good your positioning is.”
The Cowboys defense faced the third most pass attempts last year. Adding rookies who can jump isn’t going to turn that around.
3 Na Brown Award Watch
Stock down: Mack Hollins, OTA darling. Hollins’ quieter training camp is nothing to be alarmed by: as a 4th round pick, the lack of talent at WR and his special teams ability, he was always a lock to make the roster.
Stock up: Marcus Johnson. Johnson embodies the spirit of the Na Brown Award, entering camp as an afterthought and lighting it up so far.
Stock up: Billy Brown. If the Eagles didn’t already have three tight ends, Brown would be getting consideration as the third guy. He needs a lot of work on his blocking, which makes him an strong candidate for the practice squad.
Stock up: CJ Smith, who at this point looks like he’ll get a lot of playing time because the one eyed man is king in the land of the blind.
Stock up: Terrence Brooks, who entered camp vying with Jaylen Watkins for the 3rd safety spot and has so far run away with it. That’s encouraging not just for depth purposes but also because Brooks is a Joe Douglas guy, and we don’t have a lot of data points to evaluate Douglas.
Stock up: Kamu Grugier-Hill. Grugier-Hill has a really good physical base to work with as a linebacker/safety hybrid, at the least he has a lot of potential to be a key player for Dave Fipp. So far, he’s looking like he might deserve a look as a reserve linebacker.
4 I had a dream
On Thursday night, I had an amazing dream I thought I’d share with you. I usually don’t remember my dreams, and when I do they are lucid dreams, which is probably why I remember them. This was not a lucid dream.
The scene: the Cowboys locker room after their Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night. Jason Garrett has the team encircled around him. Most of the players still have their pads on, coaches and sideline staff are also around him.
He has a wooden salad bowl in his left arm, waist high, and in it is enough iceberg lettuce to serve one person. He empties an entire bottle of ranch dressing into it, then stirs it with a wooden spoon like he’s mixing up batter. It’s basically a bowl of ranch dressing with some lettuce in it. He shows the bowl to all gathered around him, then says a few words about how this is a metaphor for teamwork and togetherness. I don’t remember the exact words because in my dream I was too startled at the salad to register the exact words he was saying. He beams with his signature “I have no idea what I’m doing” smile, thinking he’s just given the greatest post-game speech in the history of post-game speeches.
Nobody reacts. It’s just awkward silence. You could have heard a pin drop.
And that was the end of my dream. When I woke on Friday morning, for a very short moment I thought it really happened. I was excited that we’d have another instance to make fun of Jason Garrett. But then I immediately thought “no you dingus, you didn’t even watch the game how would you have seen this.”
Does this meaning something? Is this important? I’m not about to start messing with my mashed potatoes but I’m going to think about that dream pretty much every time I see Jason Garrett this year.