Philadelphia Eagles

Didinger: Chance Warmack could rediscover dominant form with Eagles

Didinger: Chance Warmack could rediscover dominant form with Eagles

Give Howie Roseman high marks for his moves on Day One of free agency. He did some pretty slick maneuvering for a guy who didn't have a lot of money to spend and multiple holes to fill.

Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are the talk of the town today and justly so. It is abundantly clear the Eagles' mission this offseason is to build around quarterback Carson Wentz and with the acquisition of Jeffery, the best receiver on the market, and Smith, a legitimate deep threat, they have begun the process.

But don't overlook the other signing. Chance Warmack could be an impact player as well.

When Warmack played at the University of Alabama, he was a dominant force. At 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, he was the best guard in college football and it wasn't even close. I had him graded highest -- 9.53 on a 10-point scale -- among all offensive linemen in the 2013 draft. That included three tackles -- Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson -- who were among the top four picks overall.

Guards are seldom drafted high but Warmack was. He was selected 10th by Tennessee and, to be frank, his four seasons with the Titans were disappointing. Perhaps it was moving from left guard, where he excelled in college, to right guard in the NFL. But when I saw him with the Titans he didn't look like the same player. Maybe it was the system, maybe he was slow adjusting to the pro game. Whatever, he wasn't the same confident mauler I saw at Alabama.

But there is reason to believe Warmack can recapture his old form with the Eagles. That's because Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles' offensive line coach and if anyone knows Warmack's strengths it is Stoutland, an excellent teacher who coached the O-line at Alabama. My guess is since the Eagles have Brandon Brooks at right guard, they will move Warmack to left guard, his natural position, and hope that by reuniting him with his former college coach it will unlock his potential.

When Warmack was at Alabama, I spoke to a long-time fan of the Crimson Tide. He said, "Chance Warmack is the best lineman we've had here since John Hannah." Hannah, you'll recall, was a 10-time All-Pro with the New England Patriots. Sports Illustrated once put him on the cover with the title "The Best Offensive Lineman of All-Time." Guards rarely achieve such acclaim but Hannah did. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1991.

That's not to say Warmack's career will follow the same trajectory. It certainly didn't in Tennessee. But it is clear he needed a change and it would seem the Eagles represent a great opportunity for a 25-year-old lineman with such a formidable skill set.

I went back to my 2013 scouting report on Warmack and reviewed my notes.

Thick build, natural power...

Dominates at the point of attack...

Strong base, heavyweight punch...

Can pull and block on the second level...

Surprisingly agile for a big man...

Intimidator...

I had 25 pluses in all and only a few negatives, most of them the nit-picking variety. I noted Warmack seemed to tire late in warm weather games so I thought he might need to work harder on conditioning. He was fooled every so often on a line stunt or delayed blitz but mostly it was correctable stuff. Everything else on his college tape was impressive.

To me, several things stood out. One, he finished plays. He didn't just screen off defenders; he put them on the ground. He kept his hands inside, not extended so he was rarely penalized. It was an indication of a well-coached player, something that reflects on Stoutland as well. Warmack was never on the ground. He was always on his feet. He wasn't lunging or diving at shoetops. He had great balance and moved better than his 40-yard dash time (5.49) would suggest.

Signing Warmack one year after signing Brooks indicates a new philosophy for the Eagles' offense. This coaching staff wants more power up front. By retaining Jason Peters (330 pounds), signing Brooks (335) and Warmack (325) to go along with Lane Johnson (320), the Eagles are clearly going to a more physical O-line which raises the question of how soon will center Jason Kelce be giving way to Isaac Seumalo? (My guess is pretty soon.)

For a while now the Eagles have struggled in short yardage. Their O-line couldn't knock the other team off the ball. Adding muscle in the trenches is the quickest way to rectify that.

This was the final entry in my 2013 scouting report on Chance Warmack: Has Pro Bowl tools.

We'll see now if that's still true.

Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

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Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

And then there's the former Eagle on the Bills who is a little less famous.
 
It was cataclysmic when Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills. It was historic when Howie Roseman traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills.
 
Jordan Poyer's journey from Philly to Buffalo is a little bit different and a whole lot less well-known. But the one-time Eagles draft pick has become an important part of Sean McDermott's defense.
 
Poyer, who signed as a free agent with the Bills this past offseason, was the second of three Eagles seventh-round picks in 2013. He made the team as a long-shot cornerback and played in three games as a rookie before getting released on Oct. 19 so the Eagles could sign running back Matthew Tucker off their practice squad.
 
The Eagles hoped to land Poyer on the practice squad, but the Browns claimed him, and he wound up spending four years in Cleveland, playing in 45 games and starting four last year with two interceptions before his season ended with a horrific injury — a lacerated kidney.
 
He finally escaped Cleveland this spring, signing a four-year, $13 million deal with the Bills that includes $7.4 million in guaranteed money and he goes into the regular season as the Bills' starting free safety.
 
Not bad for the 46th defensive back taken in the 2013 draft.
 
“Being in Philadelphia, starting my career here was huge," Poyer said Thursday night after the Eagles-Bills preseason game at the Linc.
 
"I’m in Year 5 now and you never know what would have happened if I didn’t start out here, start my career here. It was a big part of my foundation, learning the NFL game."
 
The Browns went 12-47 while Poyer was in Cleveland, and he played under three head coaches and four defensive coordinators during his stay with Cleveland.
 
“It was a challenge," he said, shaking his head. "We all play this game to win football games. That’s the name of the business, the name of the game. That’s why we start playing when we’re little. Anytime you’re not winning it’s always tough.
 
"I’m trying to put that time of my life behind me now, I’m here in Buffalo now and happy here."

But the one good thing that happened to Poyer in Cleveland was the switch from corner to safety.
 
“It's a lot different and it took some time," he said. "But I feel good about it, felt good about making the switch. Took it and ran with it and learned the position.
 
"It's still a new position, and I still have a lot of things to learn, but I feel like it was good for me. Really one of the best things to happen to my career."

In Buffalo, Poyer's head coach, McDermott, and defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, are both former Eagles secondary coaches. Nobody has a better feel for the secondary than McDermott, who played in the same secondary as Mike Tomlin at William & Mary and worked under Jim Johnson for a decade in Philly before going to a Super Bowl with Ron Rivera in Carolina.

"It's a great situation for me with Sean and Leslie," Poyer said. "Sean coaches us every day, helps us get better, helps get the whole football team better. I learn something from him every day."
 
Poyer has played in more games than 24 of the defensive backs drafted ahead of him in 2013 and in more games than all but five of the 47 other seventh-round picks that year.
 
The only defensive back the Eagles have taken in the seventh round the last 50 years who's played in more career games is Kurt Coleman, another player who revived his career under McDermott.
 
To go from seventh-round pick to $7½ million in guaranteed money is quite a story, but Poyer is so grounded he said he doesn't really think about the big picture of his career arc.
 
“During the season, you’re moving so fast you don’t really have time to sit back and look at what you’ve accomplished or how far you’ve come," he said.
 
"At the end of the season or at the end of my career I’ll look back on it and soak in everything that I had to go through and got to where I am now, but right now, I'm just focused on getting ready (for opening day).
 
"Philly gave me a good opportunity, made a lot of good friends here and now excited to be here in Buffalo."

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

It happens this time every year. 

Two preseason games are now in the books and the overreaction portion of the program has commenced. It's only natural. We're seven-plus months removed from the Eagles' last regular-season game. You have an entire offseason of hype and buildup. There's free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp, and finally, there's the wonderful world of exhibition games. We're dying for storylines and answers. And projections based on illusions become reality.

A stroll through some names of training camps past is a stark reminder not to go overboard anointing these guys the next big thing. Here are some blasts from the past: Henry Josey, Jeremy Bloom, JaCorey Shepherd, Gizmo Williams, Billy Hess. Remember them? No points off if you don't, but they were thought to be the answers in years past.   

Remember way back in the day, like Aug. 29, 2015? The Eagles played their third preseason against Green Bay. New Birds quarterback Sam Bradford's line that night: 10 for 10, 121 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.7 passer rating on three drives. They thought they had found their guy. Bradford went on to have a middling season with a 7-7 record as a starter. His individual stats matched the record, and a year later, he was dealt to Minnesota. His coach, Chip Kelly, did not last the season. 

Take last year for instance — Paul Turner was Jerry Rice reincarnated. Now, the receiving corps was awful and Turner, an undrafted free agent stuck with the practice squad, eventually got time with the club during the regular season. But we may want to hold off on his Canton enshrinement.

Which brings us to the consternation surrounding the 2017 Eagles' first-team offense and running game. Granted, sans two amazingly athletic plays by Carson Wentz in the Packers game, the first team has not looked ready for prime time. 

But let's take some things into account. Teams game plan minimally for preseason games. Unless, of course, you're Dom Capers and you blitz an entire exhibition game. The Eagles did not prepare for the extra men sent, therefore they didn't handle it well.

Thursday against the Bills, the Eagles' first-team offense was without left tackle Jason Peters. They were also missing Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles barely sniffed the field. That will hurt production. 

In the Packers game, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Donnel Pumphrey ran the ball off-tackle multiple times. That ain't happening in the regular season. Would you like to see Wentz protected better and the ones more productive? No question. Is it time to push the panic button? Certainly not.

The flip side is keeping some of the positive performances in perspective. It's beyond encouraging how Mychal Kendricks has looked through the first two games. But let's not lose sight of the non-factor he's been the last couple of seasons when things were real. 

There is not a bigger believer in Derek Barnett than me. From the moment I knew where the Eagles would be drafting, I wanted him in midnight green. I'm a firm believer he will be starting sooner rather than later. And he has not disappointed in the exhibition games. But some of the guys he is facing will be pumping gas in Jersey real soon. Not playing in the NFL.

Perspective and long views are not easily attained. But they're necessary tools when it comes to this time of year.