Who Crowned Matt Barkley?

Who Crowned Matt Barkley?

There has been some buzz since the Eagles chose Matt Barkley
in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, as you might expect. For one
it defied many of the preconceived notions people held about what works in Chip
Kelly’s offense. Also, had Barkley departed USC one year earlier, he might have
been a far more heralded prospect, perhaps even a top 10 pick.

News flash: Barkely didn’t go in the top 10 or in the first
round at all, not even during the first two days of the draft. Again, he was a
fourth-round pick, a mere 10 spots later than where Nick Foles went in 2012,
and the same round where the Eagles grabbed Mike Kafka in 2011. I don’t recall
anybody writing the story two years ago entitled, “What Mike Kafka and the
Eagles’ Offseason Say About Andy Reid’s Plans.”

Yet that story was written about the Eagles, Barkley, and
their new head coach
by Chris Brown at Grantland yesterday. Brown admits
Barkley is likely a hedge by an organization that lacks a franchise
quarterback at this point in time – or at least doesn’t know who that person is
yet. Then comes the part where his addition might be a sign of things to come for Kelly's offense.

There is another possibility,
though. In addition to drafting Barkley, among the major moves Kelly made was
signing tight end James Casey in free agency and drafting Stanford tight end
Zach Ertz, two movable chess pieces to go along with Philadelphia’s other
multipurpose tight end, Brent Celek. These moves might be an indication that
Kelly’s focus is shifting from the roster of speedy running backs and
dual-threat quarterbacks he had at Oregon. Instead, Philadelphia may be looking
to mesh the fleet-footed receivers already on its roster with a group of
dynamic tight ends. As part of that group, Kelly is likely hoping Barkley can
be an extremely accurate, intelligent, intangible-heavy quarterback who can
efficiently operate his lightning-fast no huddle.

This is no different from saying Chip needs a mobile
quarterback. He keeps saying he doesn’t, and now the Eagles have drafted as
though he doesn’t. Now Chip says we’re just taking the best player on the
board, and it’s a statement about what the Birds’ offense will look like.

Don’t me wrong, Brown is a knowledgeable football guy, and I
respect his opinion. That probably is
what the offense is going to look like if Barkley or Foles for that matter are
under center. But then Kelly has said all along he will coach to the strength
of his personnel, so if it’s Vick or the shiny new mobile quarterback they choose
in the first round next April, maybe it won’t look like that then.

Barkley’s arrival in this town has been treated like no
other fourth-round pick I can remember (except maybe Na Brown). It’s as if his being groomed as the franchise
quarterback is almost a foregone conclusion. Les Bowen of the Daily News wrote
shortly after Barkley was selected “you'd have to think Barkley is Kelly's
quarterback of the future,” and has since suggested his presence may not be a
good sign for Foles.

With the Eagles, Barkley faces a
crowded field, led by Michael Vick. Barkley's arrival is bad news for Nick
Foles, in that Foles was the young QB drafted by the previous coach, and
Barkley is the young QB drafted by the new coach. But this also might mean
Foles really will get that even chance to compete for a starting role, given
that drafting Barkley means Kelly isn't wed to the idea of great QB mobility.

I’m not sure either Foles or Barkley was drafted by their
head coaches for one. Howie Roseman took the credit for the 2012 draft that
netted Foles, and while Chip’s finger prints are all over this year’s group,
there were a lot of seasoned talent evaluators such as Tom Gamble and Tom
Donahoe working on this class. Let’s forget about whose guys are whose and just
look at the reality of the situation.

  • • Vick turns 33 this summer and is playing on a one-year deal.
    If he doesn’t start and have a great season, he’s gone.

  • • Foles is a third-round pick with six NFL starts under his
    belt. He’s earned an opportunity to compete for the job, but we don’t know what
    they have yet.

  • • Barkley is a fourth rounder. To put that in perspective, the
    best three fourth-round quarterbacks of the last 20 years are Kyle Orton, David
    Garrard, and Aaron Brooks.

In other words, any one of the three Birds QBs could be the starter on
opening day over a year from now in 2014 – or none of them.

Barkley isn’t special just because at one time people
believed he might go in the top 10. As Bowen points out, even though somebody
thinks it doesn’t mean that’s what would have happened (just look at Sharrif Floyd this year), and I would add it
doesn’t mean Barkley would have been successful, either. He went
where he went in the draft, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

Chip Kelly’s plan wasn’t to discover the next Tom Brady in
this draft. The Eagles have a need at quarterback, and Barkley was the player
available when they were on the clock, so they took him. For the time being at
least, there really isn’t too much more to make of the selection than that.

What Matt Barkley and the Eagles’ Offseason Say About Chip Kelly’s Plans [Grantland]

>> Matt Barkley’s fall ‘a perfect storm’ for Eagles [Daily

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Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”