Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

It wasn’t a quarterback, but
the Eagles continued to focus on offense in the second round of the NFL Draft on
Friday. Zach Ertz joins Brent Celek and James Casey in a suddenly crowded field
of tight ends for Philadelphia.

Chip Kelly’s offense is
expected to feature the tight end heavily, so despite Celek’s presence on the
roster plus the addition of Casey through free agency, adding another with the 35th overall selection was far from surprising. The belief is the Eagles will carry up to four, possibly
even five tight ends this season.

The Stanford product was
easily one of the top prospects at the position, as he was just the second tight
end to come off the board. He has good size (6-5, 249 lbs.) and strength, and
is said to be an excellent route runner. He'll also be useful in an H-back role.

Here’s the scouting report from NFL.com:

Strengths

Smooth athlete
with good route quickness to create some separation and sneaky speed to get
behind the defense. Sturdy, well-built frame, adding 30 pounds of bulk and
muscle since he arrived in Palo Alto. Tough with the ball in his hands and isnt afraid to deliver hits, lowering his pads and finishing
runs. Not afraid to get physical as a blocker and gives good effort in this
area, always looking for someone to block downfield. Tracks the ball well and
does a nice job adjusting his frame to make the tough catch, extending and
plucking. Looks like he has glue on his hands with some of the catches he is
able to make. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his
routes and immediately looking for the ball out of his breaks. Nice job
deceiving defenders and finding soft spots in coverage to make something happen
after the catch, averaging over 13 yards per catch in 2012. Has experience all
over the offense for Stanford, lining up in-line, slot and out wide, but looked
most comfortable in the slot. In 2012 Ertz doubled Coby Fleeners production from the year before, earning All-American honors as a
Mackey Award finalist. Hard worker on and off the field and plans to graduate
in June.

Weaknesses

Missed half
of his sophomore year due to injury. Must prove his straight-line speed to
scouts. Will not elude NFL defensive backs after the catch with pure quickness.
Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage
battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging
at targets instead of getting position. Nice job adding bulk to his frame, but
needs to continue to develop his strength to sustain blocks at the line of
scrimmage. Will round off some routes at times and needs to better control
himself in/out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job coming down with
contested throws and will drop some easy ones seems to
have at least one drop each game.

Ertz posted a whopping 69
receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns last year as a redshirt junior, including 11
for 106 and a score in a 17-14 win over Chip’s Ducks. It was by far his most
productive season, although he was always a threat inside the red zone, hauling in an additional nine touchdowns the previous two years despite a much smaller role.

Looking at this selection from
another perspective, Ertz and Lane Johnson aren’t just offensive players. They
are BIG, powerful offensive players. The Eagles aren’t going to just tucker
opponents out with a breakneck pace, or try to finesse their way down the
field. They want to wear defenses
down physically as well.

Geoff Mosher wrote more about the Eagles' plan at tight end earlier this week:

When the Eagles signed versatile fullback/tight end James Casey in
March, coach Chip Kelly spoke about the increase of two tight-end
formations, about the creation of a lethal tight end tag team similar to
New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Casey and
veteran tight end Brent Celek, right now, are Kelly’s vision of the
Gronkowski-Hernandez pairing. Backups Clay Harbor and Emil Igwenagu are
OK but haven’t proven themselves to be dynamic.

Hoping to emulate
the Patriots, who have stockpiled at the position, the Eagles have
closely examined this year’s college crop of tight ends, and several
league officials familiar with Kelly’s background and offense expect the
Eagles to add depth there before the end of the draft.

The downside is the Eagles
haven’t addressed defense yet in this draft even though the unit was tied for
third in points allowed last season. However, an inconsistent and erratic
offense has compounded the issues on the other side of the ball for the last
two years.

Besides, it makes sense to build
a team that suits the head coach. Whatever Chip Kelly’s vision is for this
offense, he needs certain types of players to make it work. Ertz, like Johnson
before him, fits the mold.

Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

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Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

The Sixers are taking their talent evaluation on the road.

On Tuesday, members of the front office attended a workout for Excel Sports Management in New York, which included Brandon Ingram, the projected No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Jamal Murray, a projected lottery pick, and Thon Maker, according to the Inquirer.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own facility, and it is common for teams to attend organized workouts for higher-rated prospects. Head coach Brett Brown, managing owner Josh Harris and vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley traveled to the session, but president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was in Toronto for his son's high school graduation, according to the report.

The Sixers hold the first, 24th and 26th picks in the upcoming draft. The decision between one and two is widely considered to be between Ingram and Ben Simmons (see story). The Sixers have the assets on their roster to move up from Nos. 24 and 26 through a trade, which makes scouting prospects outside of the top two an integral part to their evaluation.

The team has worked out 12 players in Philadelphia and will continue to do so up until the draft on June 23. 

10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

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10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

Finally some nice weather.

The Eagles began their second round of OTAs on Tuesday under the beaming sun, in near-80 degree temperatures. That’s a departure from the first day of rookie camp and the first day of last week’s OTAs, which both brought rain.

So without the confinements of the practice bubble and without a slick football, we got a chance to see the 2016 Eagles in desirable conditions Tuesday.

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday’s practice:

1. Overall, a pretty sloppy day for the defense. As soon as the team portion of the practice began, Sam Bradford got the defensive line to jump about three times in the first several plays of practice. Late in the practice, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had enough and ripped into a second-year defensive back.

During his nearly 30-minute press conference after practice, Schwartz was asked about his past experience grooming a first-round quarterback (Matthew Stafford), but said he doesn’t have much time to worry about Carson Wentz.

“We’ve got enough worries on defense right now,” he said.

2. If you’re looking for a bright spot on defense, we’ll offer up rookie defensive back Jalen Mills. On Tuesday, Mills got a chance to work against the first-team offense in the Nickel package. When Mills came on the field, Ron Brooks moved inside, while Leodis McKelvin remained outside.

Mills made the defensive play of the day, when he got in between Jordan Matthews and a deep sideline pass.

“He’s been impressive so far,” Schwartz said of the seventh-rounder Mills. “But we haven’t even really started yet, to tell you the truth.”

Schwartz said the team wanted to see how Mills would look going against veterans; before Tuesday, he had mostly been going against rookies.

“We don’t have a depth chart right now,” Schwartz cautioned.

While those three worked with the first team on Tuesday, there could be different players there Wednesday. And Nolan Carroll, who’s still recovering, isn’t yet able to do team drills.

3. Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) and Ryan Mathews (illness) both missed practice on Tuesday, which gave some other guys more reps.

At running back, it meant Kenjon Barner worked with the first team, while rookie fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood worked with the twos. With Mathews out and with Darren Sproles still away, the team had just three running backs suited up on Tuesday. Barner looked pretty good with the first team on Tuesday.

The starting widouts were Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews. When all three were on the field, Matthews was mostly in the slot. But one guy who did a lot with his reps on Tuesday was free-agent signing Chris Givens. Now, obviously, these guys are still in shorts, but Givens showed off his speed and hands. He’s making a push for the roster as the last receiver to make the team.

4. Fletcher Cox is still not with the team (see story). Last week, during the open practice, Taylor Hart worked next to Bennie Logan in his spot. Tuesday, it was free-agent pickup Mike Martin.

“I’ve been working with them,” Martin said after practice. “We’ve been switching and working both sides. But it’s a great advantage to be able to work with the first-team guys and get those reps.”

5. You’re probably wondering how Wentz looked. He again showed off his strong arm on Tuesday, while working with the threes. Overall, he probably had the best day of the quarterbacks.

He delivered a perfect 25-yard sideline pass to Givens over the shoulder. On another play, he tripped over his offensive lineman’s foot, but was still able to complete an out to Trey Burton while falling. That’s all arm strength, because he couldn’t use his legs to complete the pass.

The one thing we have seen a couple times from Wentz is this: he has a strong arm, but sometimes he has overthrown his targets. Nothing major yet, but something to keep an eye on.

6. Jordan Hicks was back at MIKE with the defense during Tuesday’s team portion of practice, which is a good sign for a team that’s relying on him heavily. Last Tuesday, he was held out with some tightness in his legs.

While Hicks has been playing the middle linebacker spot, Schwartz talked about the versatility of that group.

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable, and you have to be now,” Schwartz said.

7. Last Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson said Cody Parkey wouldn’t be a full-go until perhaps training camp, but the kicker was hitting field goals on Tuesday and looked pretty good.

He did miss about a 43-yarder, but he still has a really good shot to make the team over Caleb Sturgis, who did a nice job filling in last season. It’s not definitely Parkey’s job yet, though. Sturgis looked good Tuesday and that’ll definitely be a competition to watch come training camp.

8. Donnie Jones is the only punter left in the building after the team cut Ryan Quigley earlier this week.

Jones celebrated by booming several punts on Tuesday. He’s still pretty good.

9. Burton has been moving around the field quite a bit in the early going. He’s been lining up on the line as a tight end, in the backfield as a fullback and in the slot as a receiver. It’s pretty clear that in some packages, Pederson and the offense will have a fullback of some kind.

Come training camp, when the hitting begins, Burton will really need to show he can handle that role.

10. Perhaps the most notable change in practice under Pederson, as opposed to Chip Kelly, comes in the form of pace. Under Kelly, the emphasis was on running as many plays as possible in the time allotted, which meant correcting mistakes after practice.

“His approach was to get no-huddle,” left guard Allen Barbre said of Kelly (more on Barbre). “If you stop to correct it all the time, you wouldn’t be getting a no-huddle practice.”

Under Pederson, there’s much more on-field teaching during practice. At one point on Tuesday, Pederson actually stopped the practice, taught technique and made them run it again. Under Kelly, the offense would have been five plays down the line.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.