<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Birds' Nest ]]>Copyright 2017https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/blogs/birds-nest http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia https://www.nbcphiladelphia.comen-usFri, 15 Dec 2017 11:12:48 -0500Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:12:48 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations () <![CDATA[The Andy Reid Era in Philly]]> Thu, 19 Sep 2013 04:48:58 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Andy+Reid+2005+Super+Bowl+XXXIX+Smile.jpg After 14 years and the most wins in franchise history, the Eagles let Andy Reid go. Take a look back at Big Red's ups and downs from his run as Eagles head coach.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Philly DA Calls Riley Incident a 'Teachable Moment']]> Thu, 01 Aug 2013 22:47:50 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Riley+Cooper+HElmet.jpg

Just one day after Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper apologized after video surfaced of him saying the N-word while threatening to fight someone at a country music concert last month, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says he hopes the incident will be used as a ‘teachable moment.’

“Like all Philadelphians and Eagles fans everywhere I was very upset to watch the video of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper and the racially incendiary words that he used, “ said Williams during a press conference today. 

“(The Eagles) can use this as a teachable moment not only for him (Riley) but maybe the city as a whole to deal with racism, insensitive language…because often in my line of work those are fighting words and a lot happens when people use insensitive words in the wrong situation."

Williams says two members of the Eagles organization reached out to him and other city leaders last night for advice about what to do about the incident which made national headlines and sparked debate.

“This city loves the Eagles. All your radio shows, sports radio shows are talking about this today and nothing else,” said Williams. “I was appreciative that they reached out to me to suggest some charities and community based organizations and faith-based organizations that he might work with. That might be of great use and might make his ignorant behavior and repulsive behavior...maybe there could be a silver lining in his unfortunate words,” said Williams.

Williams said that Riley should expect backlash for his comments for some time.

“It won’t be over today I am sure he will hear a lot about it moving forward,” said Williams. “I think it’s important for him to learn and for him to talk to others about what he has learned. And hopefully that can help other people from making the same mistake. Because situations often in Philadelphia...when people use the wrong words go from just being a person can’t get somewhere at a concert to people in an emergency room.”

The Eagles released a statement this afternoon shortly after Williams' press conference.

“In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions. He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so.”

Kenny Chesney, who's concert at the Linc served as the scene of Cooper's racist slur, also weighed in today saying he was stunned to see the video, according to CSNPhilly.com.

"I am as anyone to see the video of Riley Cooper that's started circulating on the internet,” Chesney told ESPN senior writer LZ Granderson. "I don't believe in discrimination in ANY form, and I think using language like that is not only unacceptable, it is hateful beyond words.” 

"I'm disgusted and I'm sorry," Riley Cooper said during an emotional press conference Wednesday. "That's not the type of person I am."

Cooper attended a Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in June. While at the concert, Cooper was involved in a confrontation in the parking lot. Video of Cooper confronting two men was released back on June 9 via Crossing Broad. While the footage shows the men yelling at each other, no punches were actually thrown.

Credit: YouTube.com/CrossingBroad

On Wednesday, new video of Cooper from inside the concert surfaced. The video shows one of Cooper’s friends trying to calm him down as he angrily points towards someone in the crowd.

“I will jump that fence and fight every n***er here,” he says in the video.

Credit: YouTube.com/CrossingBroad

According to Cooper, he was speaking to an African American security guard.

"There was a confrontation with me and one of the security guards," he said. "I'm not going to get into what happened. I said something that was actually disgusting and terrible. I shouldn't have handled it the way I handled it."

Cooper also admitted he had been drinking before the incident.

"I was drinking but that is no excuse for what I said and what I did," he said. "Absolutely not."

Cooper also said that Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman fined him, though he did not say how much.

Lurie also released a statement in response to the video.

“We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words," Lurie said. "This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society.  He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident.“

"It was a good amount of money but that's really not important," Cooper said. "The situation should not have been dealt with the way I dealt with it. I'm willing to accept all consequences."

Throughout the press conference, Cooper repeatedly apologized while insisting that the moment was out of character.

"I don't use that term," Cooper said. "I was raised way better than that. I've got a great mom and dad at home. They are disgusted by my actions. This is kind of the lowest of lows. This isn't the type of person that I am."

Cooper also said that he planned on reaching out to his African American teammates.

"I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m telling you guys, how extremely sorry I am and how I should have never said what I said," he said. "Most of the ones that know me know the type of person I am."

Later during the day, Michael Vick claimed he spoke with Cooper for 15 minutes and then addressed the team during an open dialogue session.

“Riley came to us as a man and apologized for what he did,” Vick said. “As a team we understood because we all make mistakes in life and we all do and say things that maybe we do mean and maybe we don’t mean. But as a teammate I forgave him. We understand the magnitude of the situation. We understand a lot of people may be hurt and offended, but I know Riley Cooper. I know him as a man. I’ve been with him for the last three years and I know what type of person he is. That’s what makes it easy, and at the same time, hard to understand. But easy to forgive him.”

"I still love him as a teammate and still look at him as one of my brothers," said Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox.

"We all make mistakes and say things that we shouldn't say," said Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans. "We all just forgive him and brought it up as a team. That was the end of it."

READ: Eagles React to Cooper's Use of Racial Epithet

Vick's brother Marcus appeared to have plenty to say about the video on his twitter account.

"Hey I'm putting a bounty on Riley's head," he tweeted. "1K to the first Free Safety or Strong Safety that light his a** up! Wake him up please."

Vick also tweeted, "Hahaha! Peace of s***. Who want to play on a team with guys like that? Riley Cooper you're a **** boy!!! Racist peace of s***."

Shortly after 8 p.m., however, Vick tweeted, "My page was hacked!" His previous tweets were then deleted.

Michael Vick spoke out against his brother's tweets.

"To address my brother's situation and what he's saying, I don't think it's really relevant,'' Vick said. "You can't allow yourself to be encumbered in what's going on. I don't agree with what my brother is saying. Riley is still my teammate and he just stood in front of us and apologized for what he said. Somewhere deep down you've got to find some level of respect for that. To people in the outside world who don't know how we're dealing with it, they're going to forge their own opinions, but my brother has to not show a certain level of ignorance himself.''

NBC10 spoke with Eagles fans about Cooper's comments. Their reactions were mixed.

"It's a racial slur," said Bobbi Jo. "It's going to hurt anyone."

"I feel some type of way because he's representing Philadelphia," said Mimi Finn.

Carl Jones however believes Cooper deserves a second chance.

"Everybody makes mistakes," he said. "I'm still gonna be a good fan of his."

A fifth-round pick out of Florida, Cooper is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He has 46 catches and five touchdowns in three years with the Eagles.

Cooper had tentatively moved into a starting role after Jeremy Maclin tore his right ACL in practice last Saturday. Still, he's not guaranteed a roster spot in Chip Kelly's new offense.

The NFL also released the following statement: "he NFL stands for diversity and inclusion. Comments like this are wrong, offensive, and unacceptable.''

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles Player Unloads on IRS]]> Thu, 16 May 2013 11:02:17 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Evan+Mathis+IRS+Thumb.jpg

Eagles starting offensive lineman Evan Mathis has never strayed far from controversy even calling fans "idiots" for wanting former Eagles coach Andy Reid fired.

This time Mathis’ anger was geared towards the Internal Revenue Service.

Per Pro Football Talk:

Like most if not all Americans, Eagles offensive lineman Evan Mathis doesn’t like it.  Unlike most if not all Americans, Mathis has opted to make his views known, in an entertaining way.

“Audit This,” tweeted Mathis as he posted an Instagram photo of him appearing to urinate on the sign for the IRS’ offices.

In the midst of a federal scandal involving the IRS’ treatment of Tea party and other right-wing non-profit groups Mathis’ photo created plenty of chatter online even getting its own Mashable writeup along with plenty of comments and retweets.

The most interesting aspect of the photo however could be the boot on Mathis’ left leg confirming an earlier CSNPhilly.com report that Mathis would miss the Eagles recent OTAs after ankle surgery.

Photo Credit: Twitter - @EvanMathis69]]>
<![CDATA[Former Eagle Stars in New Movie]]> Thu, 02 May 2013 03:43:12 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/TROTTER.gif Former Eagles Pro Bowl lineback Jeremiah Trotter is now trying out a different field-- acting. NBC10's John Clark reports that Trotter is helping share the story of a former slave.]]> <![CDATA[Andy Reid Really Enjoying K.C.'s BBQs]]> Thu, 02 May 2013 06:18:18 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Andy+Reid+Chiefs.jpg

For a long time, the joke among Eagles fans was something along the lines of, “Andy Reid might miss his time outs but he never misses a meal.”

Well, with the rotund coach now in Kansas City, his tastes have turned from Tastykakes and cheesesteaks to good-old-fashioned barbecue.

In an interview on Sirius XM Radio, Reid told “Schein on Sports” host Adam Schein that he has eaten at dozens of K.C.’s famous barbecue joints.

"I've eaten at about 50 Kansas City BBQ places and I haven't found one I don't like," is the Reid quote tweeted by New York-area sportscaster Andrew Catalon during the show -- a tweet that Schein retweeted.

That would mean that Reid has put a pretty big dent into K.C.'s heralded barbecues. A Yelp search for "BBQ" comes back with 79 restaurants featuring barbeque in "Kansas City" -- an area that includes restaurants in both Missouri and Kansas.

It appeared Reid meant the comment as a joke -- something he’s done in the past when talking about food.

For now it seems that the ex-Eagles coach, who recently took Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick, is enjoying his new gig in the Midwest from the team to the grub.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Eagle Provides Inspiration for Bombing Victims]]> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 13:55:52 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Kevin_Reilly_Eagles.jpg Former Eagles linebacker Kevin Reilly, who lost his arm due to cancer, has been able to provide inspiration to those who were injured during the Boston Marathon attack. NBC10's Tim Furlong has the story.]]> <![CDATA[Navy Seal Helps Whip Eagles Into Shape]]> Tue, 02 Apr 2013 23:35:52 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Navy-Seal-Eagles.jpg New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is implementing several innovative techniques to get the team into shape. He even called on a Navy Seal to serve as a strength and conditioning coach. NBC10's John Clark has the story.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles Move Means Less Dough for Bethlehem Businesses]]> Sat, 16 Mar 2013 05:44:34 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Campus+Pizza+Bethlehem.jpg

The Eagles announced today that after 17 years they would no long hold training camp at Lehigh University, leaving businesses near the campus dealing with the reality of less money coming in this year.

Eagles training camp practices were free but that didn’t mean that the thousands of football fans coming from near and far were leaving town without dropping some dough in Bethlehem, Pa.

For a decade, the Copperhead Grille on Route 378 has been one of the first (and last) restaurants fans from the Philly area would see as they turned from Route 309 on the way to training camp.

“During training camp we see about a 10-percent increase in our lunch business,” said Copperhead Grille co-owner Mike Dontas.

As you walk into the Grille one of the first things to greet you is an old-school Chuck Bednarik Eagles jersey hanging on the wall. Bethlehem’s favorite son, mementos from the Hall of Famer’s career grace the walls of many local restaurants including the Tally Ho Tavern on of many restaurants along W 4th Street in the city’s South Side neighborhood.

Tally Ho chief financial officer and daytime manager Dave Swirczewski says Eagles football brought people from near and far to the tavern and its outdoor seating area.

“There’s a fairly good lunch trade from it… we’ve had a few players up on our deck in summer,” Swirczewski said as he sat in a booth in the back of the tavern.

“What it really did more than anything else was that it brought people who wouldn’t have been here otherwise…. They’re pretty easy to spot, they got their Eagles gear on.”

Some businesses along 4th Street at the foot of Lehigh’s campus couldn’t speculate on how hard the hit would be but others had an idea.

“I think it’s going to affect everyone on the South Side,” Swirczewski said.

“It’s gonna affect business,” said Anthony Silvoy as he made sandwiches behind the counter of The Goose on W 4th Street. “You’d get some decent crowds.”

Down 4th Street, Campus Pizza owner Angelo Caiazzo estimates that training camp normally bumped up sales 15 to 20 percent.

“It got us through the summers,” Caiazzo said from behind the counter of his pizza parlor.

“It’s just less of a piece of the pie to have now… after that is taken away it’s just going to be a little bit slower than normal.”

The summer is already slower for many businesses on the South Side.

NBC10.com reached out to both Lehigh University and Mayor John Callahan’s office but neither gave any comment on how much money exactly would be lost.

At the locally-owned and operated Hotel Bethlehem in the city’s Historic Downtown District general manager Dennis Costello estimated that they would lose about $25,000 without the Eagles in town.

“It was a nice little loyal crowd,” Costello said sitting in the lavish lobby of the 91-plus-year-old hotel. “They’d come back, the same people every year.”

Depending on the year, he said that the hotel would book 20 to 30 rooms because of training camp.

“They generally tended to spend two, three, four nights at the hotel. They’d have breakfast here, they’d have drinks.”

Costello also said that Eagles fans would go to nearby restaurants and stores where they would spend more money.

But on Friday nearly every person NBC10.com approached wasn’t as worried about the money as they were sad about the Birds flying the coop.

“From a business perspective we’re going to miss the retail sales and if you’re a (regular) patron of the bar you’re going to miss the sightings of some Eagles,” said Swirczewski.

The biggest summer for these businesses was in 2004 when the arrival of Terrell Owens and a Super Bowl-caliber team drew record crowds to Eagles practice. Since then nearly every business we entered said they’ve seen steady traffic, some even saying business had picked up again in recent years.

“It’s just going to be sad not to have those people here,” Dontas said. He said Copperhead Grille would often add shifts during training camp and he even recalled times when they would open before 11 a.m. because there would already be Eagles fans playing football in the parking lot as they waited to get a bite.

“It’s just going to be sad not to have those people here,” Dontas said.

“It’s not going to close us down, obviously, but at the same time it’s good to have that little extra business from fans.”

Photo Credit: NBC10.com - Dan Stamm]]>
<![CDATA[The Newest Eagles Arrive]]> Tue, 12 Mar 2013 23:10:38 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/New-Eagles-Arrive.jpg It was a busy day for the Birds. First the team parted ways with Nnamdi Asomugha. Then they signed five new players. NBC10's John Clark spoke to some of those players when they arrived at Philly International.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles Bid Nnamdi Farewell]]> Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:57:00 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Nnamdi+Asomugha+Head+Down.jpg The Eagles cut former Pro Bowl CB Nnamdi Asomugha Tuesday. In his two seasons in Philly, Nnamdi never lived up to his big free-agent signing.
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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Violent Threats Force Vick to Cancel Book Signings]]> Tue, 12 Mar 2013 11:14:11 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Michael+Vick+Serious.jpg

Several book signings by Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick have been canceled due to threats of violence against Vick and his family, according to a family spokesperson.

Vick was scheduled to sign copies of his book “Michael Vick: Finally Free” at Barnes and Noble stores in Atlanta, New Jersey and Exton, Pennsylvania. All three appearances have been canceled however because of safety concerns.

“This was a joint decision between Michael Vick’s advisers and the publisher,” said Vick family spokesman Chris Shigas. “They were canceled because of a recent uptick in credible threats of violence against Michael Vick, his family, the bookstores and the book store employees.”

Many people flooded the Barnes and Noble's Facebook page with comments after word of Vick's scheduled appearances spread.

One person wrote, "I would go there to slit your throat knowing how you treat animals."

Another person wrote, "Hope your kids don't fall in a pool with a battery."

Shigas claims multiple threats were made, with some even being posted on Vick’s Facebook page.

“There just seemed to be a collective, very few extremists who were noting the time and the place where these events would be,” said Shigas. “They were working to gather support to commit acts of violence. They wrote and said disgusting things, including going after his fans with words of racism, including the N-word."

Police continue to investigate the threats.

“We’re going to work with authorities and we’re confident that they’re taken the threat seriously and that they’ll investigate it accordingly,” said Shigas.

Byron Williamson, the President of Worthy Publishing, the company who published Vick’s book, also told Philadelphia Magazine the following:

While we stand by Michael Vick’s right to free speech and the retailers’ right to free commerce, we cannot knowingly put anyone in harm’s way, and therefore we must announce the cancellation of Mr. Vick’s book-signing appearances. We’ve been assured these threats of violence, which have been reported to the police, are being taken very seriously by local authorities.

Vick has been surrounded by controversy since he joined the Eagles in 2009 following a 19-month stint in federal prison for running a dog fighting operation.

"It's kind of ridiculous that after being a part of the Philadelphia community for this long which is supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love, he's receiving death threats," said Brandon Bower of Coatesville. "It seems kind of ridiculous to me."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jenkins Understands Business Side to Release]]> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 17:36:10 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Cullen+Jenkins+Released.jpg

Cullen Jenkins is an Eagle no more.

The Birds released the veteran defensive tackle this afternoon in a somewhat surprising turn of events.

“It was a little shocking,” Jenkins spoke first to NBC10’s John Clark right after his release.

Jenkins said he hadn’t heard anything about his future with the team prior to getting a call from general manager Howie Roseman earlier today.

“You're just appreciative and you understand that there is a business side to it.”

Releasing Jenkins opens the door for Fletcher Cox and other younger players while saving cap money the Eagles can use to sign other vets.

The team’s website reports the 32-year-old, who started every game for the Eagles since joining the team before the 2011 season, was due to make $5.5 million this season.

Jenkins says the team never came to him about restructuring his deal.

Now the veteran of 10 NFL seasons is searching for a job -- uprooting his family once again including his children from schools they have come to like. It’s something that Clark says is a tough truth of being a professional athlete.

“It’s a part of the player’s life,” Clark said. “You never really think about it.”

Jenkins says he felt terrible that he and other big free-agent signees from the so-called “Dream Team” 2011 offseason never panned out.

“It wasn’t all the right attitudes together, we bought in a lot of pieces and all the pieces didn’t fit together,” Jenkins said. “I thought it would work… coming to the Eagles where there was a long history of going to the playoffs every year, always having a chance to compete… I thought we had a good chance of at least going to the playoffs every year.”

“The team just didn’t come together and gel like everyone thought it would and was expected to. And, it was just a shame.”

Roseman and the Eagles thanked the 6-foot-2-inch, 305-pounder for all his hard work (including 9.5 sacks and 77 tackles) during his two-year tenure in Philly.

“He has been a very productive player in this league for a long time but we felt it in our team’s best interests that we go in a different direction. By releasing him at this point, it gives he and his agent more time to sign on with another team. We wish Cullen and his family all the best as he continues his NFL career.”

Jenkins told Clark that he appreciated the chance to catch on early with another team.

And Jenkins had a message to Eagles fans:

“To the Eagles fans, just thank you, thanks for the opportunity. I know Eagles fans get a bad rap but you’re just a really passionate set of fans... There were some really tough times but there were a lot of fans who stuck through it with us and cheered for us in the good times.”

Jenkins wasn't he only Eagles defensive tackle let go Monday. Former first-round pick Mike Patterson was released after recording 551 tackles and 16.5 sacks in eight seasons with the Birds.

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles Restructure Vick's Contract]]> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 17:22:56 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/vick_eagles_last_game.jpg The Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick have agreed to terms of a restructured contract that eliminates the final three years of his long-term contract, reduces his 2013 salary and essentially turns his contract into a one-year deal, according to a league source familiar with the restructured contract.
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Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[A Deeper Look at the Billy Davis Defense]]> Sat, 09 Feb 2013 00:29:56 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Billy+Davis+Eagles+DC.jpg

It's easy to make snap judgments about assistant coach hires and their past record on other teams. New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis certainly doesn't have a sparkling resume as a coordinator on paper. But he has tons of experience in 3-4 schemes, and recently has employed more of the hybrid look that many fans were clamoring for when Gus Bradley was in town.

In Arizona, where Davis was linebackers coach for two seasons and defensive coordinator for another two, his preferred scheme was the "4-3 Under." The name is deceptive, because it's not a classic 4-3 look like we're used to seeing from the Eagles. It borrows elements from both the 3-4 and 4-3, and depending on the formation, can lineup looking like either.

You can (and should) read about it directly from Davis' mouth here and here. But let me show you, to the best of my ability. Here's what the base 4-3 Under defense looks like:

Let's start up front and work our way back. If you focus on the two defensive linemen DE-NT on the strongside (left) of the formation, the look is similar to a lot of 3-4 schemes. The nose tackle should be a big run stuffer who ideally can occupy two blockers. He'll often come off the field in passing situations. On the strongside, there's a defensive end whose primary job is similar to the all-around 3-4 defensive end: get some pressure, but mainly stuff the run.

Coming to the weakside (right), you look more for pass rushers. Because the nose tackle will be occupying two linemen in the middle, both your defensive tackle and end should have mostly one-on-one matchups. This is where you want to get a lot of pressure. That defensive end, known as the "Predator" in Davis' scheme, is going to rush nearly every play, so he doesn't have to be as versatile as your typical 3-4 outside linebacker. However, he looks like that 3-4 player at times because he can move around, rush from a standing position, and occasionally drop into a zone.

Moving to the linebackers, let's start with the strongside (SLB). Last year in the Eagles' more typical 4-3 scheme, the strongside backer was mostly a coverage guy who handled the tight end. In this defense he's much more of the classic 3-4 OLB. He's going to stand up at the line and engage the tight end, but he'll often pass rush instead of dropping back into coverage.  With a player like this, you're adding some of the great unpredictability of a 3-4 defense.

The middle linebacker in this scheme has to be someone willing to go up against offensive linemen. As you can see in the diagram, unless the nose tackle holds a double team, the MLB is heads-up against a guard. A slightly bigger "thumper" is necessary here. In contrast, the weakside linebacker is free to roam. Because he lines up behind three defensive linemen, he shouldn't have big blockers coming at him. While the MLB engages in the trenches, this faster player should be flying through the chaos to make the tackle.

The scheme is a nice change from the Wide 9, not because that scheme was fundamentally unsound, but because the 4-3 Under is more flexible and unpredictable. Rather than rushing the same four linemen in the same way every down, you have a 3-4 OLB on the strongside who can cause havoc. You've also set up two of your presumably better pass rushers with great routes to the QB, while still shoring up the run game. On early downs you have a big bodied player clogging up the middle, and on pass plays you can take him out and focus on creative stunts and blitzes.

Importing Davis' ideas also looks good because, at least on paper, it seems perfect for a number of the defenders we want to keep. Fletcher Cox is a great attacking DT. Getting him one-on-one matchups on the weakside should be fantastic for generating inside pressure. The "Predator" DE looks like a great opportunity for older Trent Cole and/or emerging Brandon Graham to pin their ears back. DeMeco Ryans, at 6-foot-1 and 247 pounds, should be able to admirably fill the MLB role, while speedy Mychal Kendricks slips right into the play-making WLB spot.

There are still personnel issues to sort out. Only the disappointing Antonio Dixon has the body type of the prototypical NT. Cedric Thornton showed some promise at defensive tackle last year, but might not be a big enough presence to take on the 3-4 DE role on the strongside. Cullen Jenkins has played that role before, but at 32 he may not make it through cuts. Most importantly, the Eagles definitely don't have a promising candidate to play the strongside linebacker. Here's one description of that player:

The No. 1 reason why more teams don't run a 4-3 Under is the difficulty in finding a player good enough to play the SAM. He needs to be big, strong, fast, and able to cover or rush the passer at any given time. He lines up on the outside edge of the TE at all times, and harasses him off the line, never allowing a free release, staying underneath on routes because you have your safety over the top. He also gets one-on-one matchups on the outside to pass rush.

It's worth noting that there will be a number of potential stud 3-4 OLB-types available at the fourth overall pick. That could be something to watch for as we get closer to the draft.

Want to read more? Check out these links for longer discussion: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Where Does Henery Rank Among NFL Kickers?]]> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 23:11:21 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Alex+Henery+Face.jpg

On paper, Alex Henery had a great 2012 campaign. The Eagles sophomore kicker made 27 of 31 field goal attempts, including a franchise-record 22 in a row. He has been a consistently accurate kicker since the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round in 2011.

Still, Henery has not yet moved from "reliable" to "weapon," the way David Akers once was. He may be headed in the right direction though. In 2011, he attempted only four field goals from 40-49 yards out, and only two beyond that. He made five of those six attempts, but didn't exhibit a big leg. In fact, he struggled to hit long field goals in warm-ups, and Andy Reid shied away from kicking field goals of 50 yards or more.

Last year was a good year for Henery, and he quieted some of the doubters. In addition to his perfect 22-kick string, he connected on 11 of 12 attempts from 40 to 49 yards out. That was huge. Still, his longest make was only 49 yards. Henery's only attempt from beyond that was a 58-yard miss. That makes judging his performance tricky.

In order to do so, let's back up and look at the entire league. I pulled every field goal attempt from the raw play by play data (including those negated by penalty, if I could, but removing blocks) and plotted field goal percentage in 5 yard buckets. Here's what it looks like:

Keep in mind that at the top end (more than 55 yards), there were only 24 total kicks, so the sample size is limited there. But overall this is the state of field goals in today's NFL. Any kick up to 35 yards should have a greater than 90 percent chance of success. Even up to 50 yards out, NFL kickers are averaging more than 75 percent accuracy. And they're still more likely to make a kick than miss it up to 55 yards distance. That's mind blowing.

The frustrating thing about field goal stats is that folks rarely look beyond the overall percentage or a particularly high-profile miss. I tried to do that with the table below, where I plotted every field goal against the "expected" likelihood that it would be made, based on the distance buckets above. The difference between the points they accumulated (or would have, + penalties - blocks) and the expected points shows us how valuable each kicker was in 2012:

The numbers aren't too surprising. Blair Walsh, rookie kicker for the Vikings, came in at No. 1, scoring 13.4 points more than the "average kicker" would have. He only missed three field goals all year, but more importantly, he made 10 of 10 kicks from 50 and beyond. That's incredible (even if he was playing in a dome). At the other end of the spectrum is Mason Crosby of the Packers and our old friend Akers. The former Eagles kicker connected on only 9 of 19 kicks further than 40 yards. It remains to be seen whether that was simply bad luck or a sign that retirement may be coming up for Akers.

As for Henery, he ranked 12th. His field goal percentage was slightly higher than what was expected, and it gave him a 2.5 point lead over the average. That's certainly good, but it's not -- to steal a phrase from Joe Flacco -- elite. Perhaps Henery just didn't have enough opportunities for long kicks, but it would be hard to blame Eagles fans who would rather the team have spent a 6th round pick on Walsh than a 4th round pick on Henery. Hopefully he can continue to improve and justify that investment in 2013 and beyond.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Long Way From the Super Bowl]]> Fri, 01 Feb 2013 18:42:03 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SUPER-BOWL-logo-2013.jpg

The Super Bowl takes place Sunday and the Eagles will not be participating. Breaking news, everyone.

But in all seriousness, this is the height of the sport, and the Eagles are far, far away from getting back there. Let's just take a moment to realize how far. Look at the 49ers roster and try to think of players on the Eagles who could start for the NFC Champs. It's a short list.

On offense, San Francisco has two quarterbacks who are better than anyone on the Eagles roster. They have an athletic freak of a tight end, and two Pro Bowlers on their mauling offensive line. 2011 Jason Peters could play for them, but not sure you take the 2013 version over Joe Staley. Evan Mathis, the Eagles' best offensive lineman in 2012, is probably a notch below former first-round pick Mike Iupati. I would take LeSean McCoy over Frank Gore, certainly. And DeSean Jackson beats old Randy Moss. But that's all.

Moving to the defensive side brings an even worse comparison. The 49ers have two of the best linebackers in the NFL, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. They also have two Pro Bowl pass rushers, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, and both Pro Bowl safeties, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson. I love Fletcher Cox and maybe he can sneak in on the defensive line if we're being generous, but that's all.

That's three players -- make it four with Alex Henery over the dearly departed David Akers. You'll get the same results if you compare the Eagles to other championship teams, even the 2004 squad that made it to the Super Bowl. You wouldn't be able to sneak many 2013 Eagles on to that roster.

All of which is to say: this isn't a quick-fix job, it's a long-term rebuilding process. Set your expectations accordingly.

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<![CDATA[The Eagles Quarterback Calendar]]> Mon, 04 Feb 2013 15:00:29 -0500 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/EB+Nick+Foles+Throws+Eyes+Closed.jpg

One of the most intriguing areas to watch this offseason will be the Eagles' maneuvering to find their 2013 quarterback. To that end, there's a clear path that they have to undertake -- and it begins next week. 

Feb. 6: If Michael Vick remains on the roster after this date, $3 million of his salary automatically becomes guaranteed. That makes the 6th the first important marker in the Eagles' decision-making process. Do they keep Vick, absorbing the contract hit because his athleticism may still be the best option for Chip Kelly's offense?

That's unlikely. Vick still has great mobility and a rocket arm, but his decision-making, despite a few years of tutoring from Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, is questionable. Moreover, even if you can keep Vick happy and teach him a new offense, the upside is limited. He still wants to start, but will turn 33 before training camp with significant wear and tear on his body. At best you're buying a stop gap option, and that doesn't seem worth the $3 million guarantee. Expect the Eagles to sever ties with Vick after the Super Bowl.

March 12: Free agency begins. Unfortunately, there aren't many quarterbacks out there of note. Still, the Eagles should be dipping their toes into this pool if they let Vick walk. Players like Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Moore and Jason Campbell are best suited to a backup role, but they might rather get a shot of competition in Philadelphia than automatically sit on the bench. Are you scraping the bottom of the barrel here? Sure. But every team needs depth and competition at the QB spot, and these options aren't going to be expensive. Maybe you get away without signing someone if you think Trent Edwards can adapt.

April 1: The only potential free agent who actually may be able to start is Alex Smith, currently under contract with the Super Bowl-bound 49ers. Smith, according to reports, has a contract clause that kicks in on April Fools Day that makes his entire $7.5 million salary guaranteed. San Francisco certainly isn't going to pay that, so they will look for suitors before having to cut him outright.

The Smith case will be interesting to watch because of the multitude of factors at play. The Niners have to trade him in the month of March, or else cut him. They have little leverage unless multiple bidders step up. The question is, who would bid highly for Smith? At first glance, there are seven teams who will be in the Franchise QB hunt this offseason: Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Arizona. Most of them are in rebuilding phases where buying a soon-to-be 29-year-old quarterback isn't on the agenda.

Plus, John Harbaugh and the 49ers haven't exactly treated Smith like a franchise guy. They openly flirted with Peyton Manning, then benched Smith in the middle of his best season for an unproven second-year player. That doesn't seem like a quarterback in whom you want to invest.

If I were the Eagles, I would part with a 2013 late round pick or a conditional selection in 2014 based on playing time for Smith. Certainly if the 49ers cut him, you have to investigate. He's no great quarterback, but competence and a dash of athleticism could still be valuable.

April 25 to 27: The NFL Draft. If the Eagles handled free agency properly, they should have Nick Foles and at least one other potential starter (or at worst, a fair backup) at this point. You never want to enter the draft with a glaring need, especially at quarterback, or other teams will use that knowledge to their advantage. Plus, you just can't count on getting the guy you want.

Unfortunately, the Eagles (and other teams) are shackled with a poor class of quarterbacks. It's even poorer when you look for guys who could fit Chip Kelly's system. The order of all of these players is still being sorted out, but from what I've been reading, there are only a couple that really interest me. In the first round, Geno Smith out of West Virginia could be an option. No one thinks he's the second coming of RGIII, but he had a lengthy, productive college career throwing from the pocket and has some mobility to boot. Smith also seems likely to score highly on the Football Outsiders Lewin Forecast

While first round picks are less expensive than they once were, the Eagles shouldn't reach for Smith with the fourth overall pick unless they're sure he can be an elite guy. A later round option is EJ Manuel, the Florida State quarterback who was just named Most Outstanding Player at the Senior Bowl. Here's what Mike Tanier said about him recently:

Manuel is impressive on film and when discussing his game. He is not nearly as impressive when standing in a pocket and distributing passes in a stripped-down game plan. He has the size coaches covet (“He looks like a tight end out there,” Detroit Lions/South Squad coach Jim Schwartz said) but his best bet will be to follow the route of (Russel) Wilson: earn a mid-round selection and find a coach amenable to his playing style -- perhaps Chip Kelly, who recruited Manuel out of high school and now coaches the Eagles.

Sounds promising. The nice thing about Manuel is that he potentially fits Kelly's style, and also wouldn't cost a top pick. Consensus suggests he's more of a 3rd to 5th round prospect (at least, before his Senior Bowl performance). At that low risk, I'd draft Manuel in a heartbeat. Let him compete for the job in an up-tempo spread offense like he's used to. If it works out, maybe you've caught something similar to Wilson. If not, move on without any huge cost.

July 22: Training camp will start sometime at the end of July. This is when the real competition begins between free agents, rookies and the incumbent Foles. One note about Foles: I don't have anything against him, but he's essentially the fall back option here. He's cheap and has shown some skills. Don't hand him anything. Let Foles prove that he deserves to start -- and that he can compensate for his lack of running skills.

April 24 to 26 (2014): I've discussed before how the best way to find a franchise quarterback is to keep throwing them at the wall until one sticks. The general outline of pairing Foles with a rookie and a veteran free agent seems like the best way to pursue that path this year. But the nice thing is that you're not wedded to anyone long term. If none of those options work this time, you start over again. Next year's draft could be loaded with talented, athletic quarterbacks like Logan Thomas, Tahj Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater. When at first you don't succeed: try, try again.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>