Potential Hang-ups in Spags to Birds

Potential Hang-ups in Spags to Birds

Now that speculation over last week's report suggesting Steve Spagnuolo was set to join the Philadelphia Eagles as their new defensive coordinator (which is not really what the report said) has quieted down some, let's look at why you might want to consider tapping the breaks on that theory. Yes, there is evidence these two are not exactly a match made in heaven.

Bare in mind, we're not saying Spags won't ultimately land with the Birds. After all, the former Jim Johnson disciple will listen to what Andy Reid has to say, and vice versa, if for no other reason than due diligence. However, the recently-terminated head coach will have plenty of options on the table, and there are reasons to believe Juan Castillo's demotion or dismissal is not a given.

Performance
We know what kind of coach Spagnuolo can be. His Giants defense led the charge for New York's 07-08 Super Bowl run, ranking seventh in the NFL, then holding one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history to 14 points in the championship game. NY also ranked fifth the following season.

That hasn't translated into recent success though. As a head coach, his Rams ranked 22nd overall this season, and second-to-last against the run. They were never better than 19th overall during his three-year tenure.

Meanwhile, in his first season coaching defense in decades, Juan Castillo's unit ranked eighth. It seems odd you would replace a coach who has a top 10 defense with somebody who hasn't coached a good defense since he was employed by another team -- which is exactly the kind of thinking that could justify returning Juan next season.

Fit with Washburn
Only a year ago, the Eagles made the unusual decision to hire a defensive line coach before settling on a defensive coordinator. That seems to be the biggest reason behind why the club couldn't find somebody more experienced than Castillo to take the job, but it made one thing perfectly clear: Andy Reid was a fan of Jim Washburn's wide-nine front.

But as Sheil Kapadia demonstrated the other day on Moving the Chains, Washburn's philosphies probably don't mesh with Spagnuolo's. This season, the Eagles rarely dropped their linemen into coverage, which was in stark contrast to the Rams, who did so with great frequency. By extension, Castillo blitzed very rarely, yet the Birds tied for the league-lead in sacks.

It's no secret that Spags, as his mentor did, loves to blitz. But by choosing Washburn, Reid indicated a desire to get away from that approach. If the two philosophies can't co-exist -- and it appears they couldn't -- the Eagles would have to scrap a scheme they previously were desperate to employ in favor of one they wanted to shift away from.

Stability
One of the underlying themes in 2011 is how all the changes made in the offseason may have impacted the Eagles' performance, particularly in the early goings. Much has been made about the way this defense gelled as the year progressed, and how that momentum could carry over into next season.

Replacing Juan Castillo would erase all of that. The players would be working in their third defensive system in as many years, which makes it challenging to build any cohesion from one season to the next. Plus, some of them might not fit in the new schemes -- notably Jason Babin, who seems to be tailor-made for the wide-nine, or likely starting cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who have three career sacks between them.

Granted, some of that talk about change having a role in their struggles was in part based around having a shortened offseason due to the lockout. That being said, there is something to be said for not making major overhauls in back-to-back offseasons.

Loyalty
A noted observation about how he conducts his business, Reid will rarely throw one of his guys under the bus. Even if he keeps Castillo on staff as a position coach, Reid would be doing the man a tremendous disservice by replacing him at defensive coordinator.

If he's fired or even demoted, Castillo could gain a negative reputation around the league. Who is going to give him another try at coordinator in the future if he was "so terrible" at his job, he couldn't even be entrusted with a second chance? Even if they find him a coordinator job on another team, he would almost definitely be on a shorter leash than most coaches.

The truth is, Castillo hasn't been given the rightful opportunity to prove himself yet, and Andy knows that. Worse things could happen than being shuffled to linebackers coach or some other, lesser role. Reid has great admiration for Castillo though, and if he's truly interested in helping him succeed, he's not going to chop the man's legs out from under him.

A Better Job Out There?
There sure are a lot of hoops for Spagnuolo to jump through here, no? To become defensive coordinator, it seems likely he'll have to keep Castillo on his staff, not to mention the issue with Washburn running a conflicting scheme. Spags might be willing to keep an open mind, but most guys want to bring in their own staff.

Previously, we examined the possibility he could return as the defensive backs coach instead. As unlikely as it sounds, he may do it for one year to help Castillo, or if he feels he could be part of something special here.

But it seems as if, either way, there will be a better job available for a coach of Spagnuolo's caliber. Here, it doesn't appear he would have complete control, and that's if the top job is even available. Elsewhere, larger shake-ups are in order, and he would be able to build his own program.

We'll see. We know a lot of folks are convinced it's happening, but Steve Spagnuolo's path back to the Birds is not as clear cut as people are making it out to be.

Of course Doug Pederson has actually run up the Rocky steps

Of course Doug Pederson has actually run up the Rocky steps

Doug Pederson sat down with Matt Mosley and Ed Werder on their Doomsday podcast recently to talk some NFC East football.

They caught Doug during his son's little league baseball game and chatted about topics ranging from Carson Wentz's rookie year, the Dallas Cowboys, Sidney Jones, and the addition of a plethora of weapons on offense.

Doug sees a Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz-dominated NFC East for years to come. Coach Pederson was impressed by the way Prescott carried himself on and off the field. Doug pointed out that Dak didn't have to do anything remarkable for the Cowboys to win games which allowed him to simply be himself.

Perhaps that's something Wentz will benefit from in year two with so many more weapons around him.

Things got a little fluffy as the interview went on and they asked Doug if he's actually run up the Rocky steps before.

The "Rocky steps" of course being the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And of course he has.

"I have. I actually have," Doug said. "In fact, several years ago when I was an assistant coach, family and friends would come visit for home games so I had to be the tour guide. I would escort them down to the steps and we would make that ascent to the top of the steps. I've done it a few times now.

"When you get to the top of the steps and you turn around and you're looking right down the Parkway, right into Center City, with the cityscape of Philadelphia, you can't help but raise your arms."

Doug adds that he's a provolone with onions on his cheesesteak and that he still refers to the Eagles' owner as Mr. Lurie.

"I'm going to keep calling him Mr. Lurie until hopefully one day I can stand on that podium and hoist the Lombardi trophy. I'll probably use his first name at that point."

You can listen to the full conversation with Doug right here.

 

Eagles OTA storylines: Jeffery in uniform, rotations, awkwardness

Eagles OTA storylines: Jeffery in uniform, rotations, awkwardness

The Eagles will finally be playing football this week. Sort of. 

Tuesday morning marks the beginning of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the first time most of the 2017 Eagles will be on the field together. 

While OTAs are technically voluntary, the Eagles — and every other team — will have near-perfect attendance. For the Birds, that will include Brandon Graham, who was reportedly set to holdout, but rejoined the team just a few days after leaving (see story)

The Eagles will have a few rounds of OTAs (May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 5-6, 8-9) leading up to the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The mandatory minicamp runs from June 12-15. After that, the team is off until training camp. 

Thanks to the CBA, there are strict rules for what teams are allowed to do during OTAs. Players wear helmets but aren't allowed to wear pads, which means no contact. Also no 1-on-1 drills, but 11 on 11s are allowed. So there's at least some competition. 

Annual yearly warning: Be wary the stories of greatness from players in shorts in May. 

Last year, there were a ton of juicy storylines with a new coaching staff, a No. 2 pick quarterback and the Sam Bradford drama. By comparison, this year is boring, but the Eagles never lack drama. 

Here's what to watch this year: 

A new No. 17 
The Eagles' biggest free agent acquisition will be on the team for his first full-team practice. Alshon Jeffery is the type of receiver the Eagles desperately needed. He'll immediately become Carson Wentz's No. 1 weapon this season. 

So Tuesday will offer a first look at Jeffery and the other new pickups, including Torrey Smith, Timmy Jernigan and LeGarrette Blount. 

During rookie minicamp a couple weeks ago, third-rounder Rasul Douglas said he was looking forward to lining up across from Jeffery this week. He'll finally get his chance. 

Carson in Year 2
This time last year, Wentz was the Eagles' third-string quarterback, preparing for a redshirt rookie season. 

Now, he's the not just the starter but the young leader of the team and the face of the franchise. While he was already seemingly in command of the huddle as a rookie, expect him to continue to grow into his leadership role. Sometimes these things just take time. But he is already one of the unquestioned leaders of the team. 

Also, we'll see if there's any notable difference in his mechanics after working out with QB guru Adam Dedeaux this offseason. The main thing they worked on was footwork. We'll see if it helps limit the amount of throws Wentz sails — perhaps his biggest issue as a rookie. 

The rotations
We won't be able to learn a heckuva a lot from watching practices because football isn't meant to be played in shirts and no pads, but we will at least get to see who lines up with who. 

Because 11 on 11s are allowed, we'll get a glimpse of what the first, second and third teams look like. Will Allen Barbre start off as the first-team left guard? Who is the starting defensive end opposite Brandon Graham and on which side? Is LeGarrette Blount ready to run with the ones? 

Kelce and Kendricks
Jason Kelce and Mychal Kendricks are still on the roster after plenty of speculation this offseason that they'll be gone. And there's still a chance one or both could be traded. 

To their credit, both have been very professional throughout this process and both have been at the facility this spring. It's a part of the business, but it has to be a little weird to show up to work every day knowing you might be dealt. 

Hopefully, they'll make themselves available to answer a few questions. 

MIA
While Sidney Jones is still recovering from his Achilles tear, even if he wasn't, he wouldn't be allowed at the facility this week. Jones and his college teammate Elijah Qualls went to the University of Washington, which operates on a quarters system. 

It's a stupid rule, but the NFL doesn't allow players who went to schools on quarters systems to be in voluntary camps until they graduate. That might not seem like a huge deal, but for a guy like Qualls, who has a chance to fight for a roster spot, the time missed could be devastating. 

Last offseason, two undrafted tackles had a chance to make the team — Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu — but only one did. During this time last year, Vaeao was on the field showing his potential, while Shittu was back in Stanford. Vaeao made the team and was a contributor, while Shittu was stuck on the practice squad.