Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers

Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers
May 11, 2011, 4:37 am
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.

By Ray Didinger

Answering your questions and commenting on your comments, here is todays dip into the mailbag.

Q. After watching the Kentucky Derby, I started thinking about bloodlines and whether there is a correlation in other sports. Im thinking specifically of the Eagles draft. They drafted two linebackers Casey Matthews and Greg Lloyd, Jr., with fathers that starred in the NFL. Is that something teams value?
Nick G.Bensalem, Pa.

A. In some cases bloodlines seem significant; in others, not so much. It appears to be a real thing in the Matthews clan. That is a three-generation NFL family. Clay, Sr., played four years with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55). Clay, Jr., played a ridiculous 19 seasons with Cleveland and Atlanta (1978-96) and Clay, 3rd, is an All-Pro with Green Bay. Casey isnt as big or explosive as his brother, but he has the instincts and passion of a kid who grew up around the game and understands it from the inside-out.

Lloyd did not have a close relationship with his father, the former Steelers star, so it is hard to tell how much, if anything, was handed down. All players are different. You have to judge them individually. If you put too much stock in bloodlines, you are asking for trouble. In 1951, the Eagles took Ebert Van Buren, the younger brother of Steve Van Buren, in the first round of the draft. Ebert played just three seasons and rushed for all of 61 yards. He wasnt his Hall of Fame brother, in other words. Bloodlines only take you so far.

Q. I think fans need to be somewhat suspicious of the Eagles approach to linebackers. They have a group of around the same age, etc. However, the highest draft pick invested is the fourth round. They are all late-round picks. The problem with the defense the last few years, in my opinion, is not that it is bad but that it is too average across the board.

Chris Strings

A. Stewart Bradley was a third-round pick, but I get your point. This isnt a blue-chip group. Omar Gaither and Ricky Sapp were fifth-rounders, Moise Fokou and Jamar Chaney were seventh-rounders and Akeem Jordan was a free agent. This year the Eagles added Matthews (fourth round), Brian Rolle (sixth round) and Lloyd (seventh).

Fans complain that the Eagles dont value the linebacker position and dont invest in it, but thats not true. They just make bad decisions. Since Andy Reid has been here, theyve drafted Barry Gardner, Quinton Caver and Matt McCoy all in the second round so they tried to upgrade the linebackers, they just picked the wrong guys. They did the same thing last year trading for Ernie Sims. He came here and bombed. Again, they tried; they just made a mistake.

Give them credit for finding Chaney in the seventh round. He showed promise when he took over in the middle last season. But I agree with your final point: I think the defense has a lot of average players. We all know what Asante Samuel brings (turnovers) and we know what he doesnt bring (tackling), but otherwise this defense lacks game-changers. The Eagles have game-changers on offense, but not on defense. They have to find some.

Q. I have an issue with the Eagles draft. Not that the players they picked cant play, but their overall philosophy of drafting for speed. Unfortunately, that has also meant getting smaller to get faster. The linebackers they took this year look more like Matt McCoy than Jeremiah Trotter. I see the other teams running the ball down their throat and the Eagles offense never getting on the field.

Donald Pierce

A. I wonder about that, too. The Eagles got pushed around up front last season and they did not exactly bulk up in the draft. I would expect them to add a lineman or two through free agency when the lockout is lifted. I also think they will be better with Jim Washburn coaching the D-line. Washburn will do a better job of stunting, getting players into and through the gaps. Adding him to the staff will really help this team.

Q. I heard you and Glen Macnow on WIP radio discussing your list of draft sleepers. Could you recap who those players were and where they may have gone in the draft?

Joseph ManloveWilmington, De.

A. Four of the five sleepers were drafted: Will Rackley, the Lehigh guard, in the third round by Jacksonville; Kendrick Ellis, a defensive tackle from Hampton, in the third round by the Jets; Cecil Shorts, a wide receiver from Mt. Union, in the fourth round by Jacksonville, and Kealoha Pilares, a receiver from Hawaii, in the fifth round by Carolina. Nick Bellore, a linebacker from Central Michigan, was not drafted but Im sure he will be signed as a free agent.

Q. Do you think the Eagles have changed the way they select players in the draft? It seems they are drafting more mature, high character type guys the past couple drafts, players that are able to pick up the system quickly and play sooner.

Joe McGauley

A. I dont think it represents a change. When you study the list of Eagles draftees most years, you see a number of team captains, coachs sons, all-academics, etc. They do factor that into their decision-making and this season was no exception. Seven of the 11 picks were team captains including the kicker, Alex Henery. Character is important, but it still comes down to talent. The most impactful draft pick of the last three years, DeSean Jackson, was considered a bad-attitude guy, which is why he slipped in the draft. The Eagles took him in the second round and now he is one of the most dynamic players in the league. He also proved to be a quick study who started from the first game his rookie year.

Q. Boy, Ill miss David Akers and Quintin Mikell, but if these new pieces to the puzzle do their job well be OK. One question: Will drafting Danny Watkins and having Jamaal Jackson healthy at center free up Brent Celek to be a force in the passing game?
Lionel EvansWilmington, De.

A. Adding Watkins and getting Jackson back will improve the middle of the O-line, but most often it is the play on the outside that forces a team to keep its tight end in to block. That means the tackles must be better and the backs have to more consistent in carrying out their blocking assignments. But part of Celeks problem last season was a series of nagging injuries that started in training camp and lingered throughout the year. He never was fully healthy, which is a big reason why his receptions declined from 76 in 2009 to 42 last season.

Q. In last weeks mailbag you said you thought New Orleans had the best draft. Im a big Indianapolis Colts fan. I thought they had a great draft. What did you think?

Tom G.Doylestown, Pa.

A. I agree, the Colts had an excellent draft. With the first two picks, they acquired tackle Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) and tackle-guard Ben Ijalana (Villanova) to solidify their offensive line. They also landed defensive tackle Drake Nevis (LSU), a steal in the third round, running back Delone Carter (Syracuse) and cornerback Chris Rucker (Michigan State).

Q. Tennessee will need a veteran quarterback while (Jake) Locker develops. What about Donovan McNabb? They have very similar playing styles coming out of college: mobile, strong quarterbacks who throw very well outside the pocket. As such, McNabb might be a perfect role model for what Locker can achieve.

John Bartholomew

A. Interesting that you should think of McNabb because Lockers biggest weakness is still McNabbs biggest weakness and that is a lack of accuracy. Yes, Locker is mobile, but McNabb isnt mobile anymore. I dont see it as a fit. Besides, McNabb doesnt want to be a mentor or a guy who keeps the seat warm for the next quarterback. He wants to be the starter, which is why I still think he will wind up in Minnesota.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

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