Archive | College Football RSS feed for this section

The Running Man: Wendell Smallwood Hopes to be the Eagles Next Star Back

21 May
Wendell Smallwood

West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (4) during the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri via AP)

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

At this time last year, Philadelphia Eagles fans were salivating at the prospect of former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher at the time, leading the team to the Super Bowl Promised Land.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.  Between a patchwork offensive line and an offensive scheme that didn’t play to his strengths,  Murray couldn’t duplicate what he did in Dallas. Throw in the fact that he really wasn’t happy with the Eagles and had no problem letting anyone, including team management, know it, he was ultimately traded.

While Murray’s departure leaves a pretty sizable hole for the Birds, it also gives a rare opportunity to the team’s fifth-round draft pick, former West Virginia star Wendell Smallwood to make some real noise, starting with this week’s Rookie Mini-Camp. If he plays his cards right, he could be the starting running back for the team.

Of course, running backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles might have something to say about that, but what bodes well for Smallwood is that he appears to be a good fit for head coach Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.

Playing for a usually pass-happy West Virginia squad, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

“When you look at his numbers this year (2015) and you watch the tape, it’s like doubles all the time,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice-president of football operations. “Fifty-eight 10-plus yard runs and it’s play after play. He runs with a determination. You see the speed on tape and you see the speed in testing.”

Smallwood fits into Pederson’s offense the way Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles or former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook fit into Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But Smallwood comes into his first rookie camp with some minor baggage. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness to change a story that implicated his friend in a robbery attempt.  No criminal charges were filed.

Smallwood also got noticed here in Philadelphia for some offensive statements he made about the city in 2011 on, you guessed it, Twitter. He has since apologized and deactivated his Twitter account.

Most of Smallwood’s first press conference with the Philly media was spent fielding questions about his past social media activities and his arrest. To his credit, he handled the onslaught well and said he was happy that Eagles picked him.

“This organization trusted and believed in me and had confidence in me to know that’s not the person I am,” Smallwood said. “I think the impression that I left with the Eagles was good enough to get me drafted.”

While the scrutiny is understandable on one level, they amount to youthful indiscretion and bad judgment. If folks got judged on the stupid things that they did and said they were 18 or 19 years old,  a lot of people wouldn’t have jobs.

Did it have anything to do with why he was a fifth round pick? Not really. Had Smallwood stayed for his senior year at West Virginia, he might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate or Doak Walker Award candidate as the nation’s best running back.

Smallwood said he’s going to come into the Eagles camp with something to prove in the way he did in his final year at West Virginia.

“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder since I started playing the game,” Smallwood said. “That’s because I wasn’t getting the respect that I deserved. Just wanting to work for everything and wanting to prove to people that I’m better than whoever put me against. I’m a competitor and I love to compete.  I approach the game that way and its paid off that way in getting me here.”

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Cam Newton Proves His Draft Day Critics Wrong

28 Jan
SuperCam2

Cam Newton flexing his Superman pose after scoring a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be coming into Super Bowl 50 with a myriad of accolades thanks to the NFL and a target placed on his back by the Denver Broncos defense.

Newton was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writer’s of America. He’ll be taking on future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 7 at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

When you look at his stats this season, it reminds me of something one would see in a John Madden football video game. Newton passed for 3,837 yards and threw 35 touchdown passes. He also ran for 636 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.

In total, Newton accounted for 4,473 yards and 45 touchdowns. At 6-5, 245 pounds, Newton is bigger than some linebackers and defensive ends and is a punishing runner.

During the 2015 season, Newton made himself into one of the league’s elite players and arguably elite quarterbacks. He was voted the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

But what makes all of the praise he’s getting now so ironic is that many of the people lauding him were pouring haterade by the gallon on Newton in the days leading up to his being taken as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Coming out of college, draft experts and NFL pundits alike trashed Newton by throwing out every racist stereotype of Black quarterbacks that had ever existed.

Never mind that he had won a national championship at Auburn, a junior college championship the previous year and was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, all the so-called experts questioned his intelligence and his leadership.

Most of the criticism centered on a perceived inability to read NFL defenses and how that inability would all but ensure he wouldn’t make it in the NFL. These “experts” also said he was arrogant because he told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he planned on being an icon and an entertainer.

Some so-called experts including Hall of Famer and Fox Sports football analyst Terry Bradshaw, said that former University of Missouri star Blaine Gabbert and University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker were better than Newton.

ESPN’s Skip Bayless said Newton didn’t have accuracy of a Tim Tebow, who is now a college football analyst on the Worldwide Leader In Sports.

One columnist of a popular sports website said Newton was going to be a bust along the lines of quarterbacks Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

Of course, Newton did get kicked off the football team at Florida for stealing a laptop, a crime in which all of the charges were dropped due to a pre-trial intervention program in Florida. There were also reports of academic misconduct as well.

And then there’s the charge that Newton father, Cecil, was trying to peddle his son’s services to Mississippi State for $180,000. That allegation was never proven and Auburn was not sanctioned by the NCAA because of it.

Meanwhile, as the investigation into those alleged NCAA violations was reported on all the major sports networks, Newton never wavered in his focus in leading the Tigers to a national championship. One of those games include Newton leading Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit on the road against a Nick Saban-coached University of Alabama squad that was coming off a national championship the year before.

And yet, Newton’s critics said that the recent Auburn University graduate didn’t have the IQ or leadership ability to be an NFL quarterback, which was completely absurd because you don’t win a national championship without being a team leader and having the mental toughness to stay focused in the face of all of the hoopla around the possibility of NCAA sanctions.

But despite struggling to adjust to the pro game, something all young quarterbacks do, and despite doing some sulking on the sidelines his second year in the league, something that you’d also expect from a 23-year-old and that veterans such as Steve Smith Sr. quickly got him out of, Newton has led the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances including this year’s Super Bowl run.

This year, Newton showed that he could make other around him better, something he did at Auburn. When Carolina’s best receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury, Newton utilized his tight end, Greg Olsen as a deep receiver and he’s made Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery into better receivers.

Whether Newton leads Carolina to a Super Bowl victory or not on Feb. 7 , he can say to his Draft Day critics that old Kool Moe Dee lyric, “How ya like me now?”

Rough 2015 for Philly Sports Pro Sports Teams

15 Jan
IQ2D0678 copy

A tough year for DeMarco Murray and the Eagles Photo by Webster Riddick.

Temple, Imhotep Charter CM Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun Sports City Sports Teams of the Year

Serena Williams, Mizzou Football Team Female and Male Athletes of the Year

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
When it comes to sports, the year 2015 certainly had its share of exciting moments both on and off the field.
In the City of Brotherly Love, the sports year was awful. Not only did all of the city’s pro sports teams miss the playoffs, the Flyers, Eagles, Sixers and Phillies didn’t come close.
While it made sense that a coach of one of the teams would be fired by the end of the year, few thought it would be Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
But it was. And some fans are still praise dancing in the streets over the news.
The Birds were officially eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday when they lost to the Washington Redskins. Offensive coordinator Pat Shumur was named the interim head coach for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
The reason for Kelly’s firing comes down to his making some personnel moves that can charitably described as questionable. From releasing DeSean Jackson outright to trading LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for a bag of magic beans to signing running back DeMarco Murray and grossly misusing him, Kelly, who was given the General Manager reigns no matter what he said during Monday’s press conference, made a hot mess of an Eagles team that wasn’t all that bad when he took it over from Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid..
At press time, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was holding a news conference at Lincoln Financial Field. Kelly told ESPN that he’s hoping to catch on with another pro team.
But while the end of the Chip Kelly Era was 2015’s biggest local sports bombshell, it wasn’t the only one.
The Philadelphia Sunday Sun and The Chris Murray Report would like to introduce our Players Of The Year:

Philadelphia Sports Teams of the Year: the football teams from Temple University and the Imhotep Charter School.

TempleOwls2015

The 2015 Temple Owls Football team has been the only bright spot in a bad year for Philadelphia sports teams.

The only bright spot for Philadelphia sports above the high school level in 2015 was the Temple University Owls football team. The kids from North Philly finished with a 10-4 record, won the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division, a berth in the AAC’s championship game and a bid to the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl.
The Owls had some big wins along the way including the season-opener over Penn State. Middle linebacker Tyler Matakevich won several awards including the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards. He was also a first-team All-American.

imhotep charter state champs

Imhotep Public Charter School became the first Philadelphia public school to win a state championship.

The Panthers of Imhotep Charter School, located in Germantown, became the first city public high school to win a state football title when it defeated Erie Cathedral Prep 40-3 to win the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAA title.
Led by head coach Albie Crosby, the Panthers finished the year undefeated with a 15-0 record. In the win over Erie Cathedral Prep, Mike Waters and Aamir Brown combined to score five touchdowns for the Panthers.

Serena Williams –Female Athlete of the Year

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is halfway to tennis’s Grand Slam. She renews her chase for immortality at Wimbledon.

Outside of Philadelphia, Serena Williams was no doubt the Female Athlete of the Year.
The younger of the Williams sisters dominated the tennis world. Dating back to the 2014 U.S. Open, she won four majors in a row. After winning the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, Williams fell short in her bid to win the calendar year Grand-Slam in a stunning upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
Despite the upset, Williams was still the most dominant and compelling figure in the sport in 2015. At 34 years-old Williams is still the No. 1 player in the world. She had 21 Grand-Slam titles and is looking to do more in 2016.
Male Athletes of the Year: African-American Players-University of Missouri Football Team.

MIzzouProtest(KMOV)Finally, the Male Athletes of the Year are the 30 African-American players of the University of Missouri football team who threatened to boycott a football game to show solidarity with their fellow students protesting campus racism and calling for the president of the University to resign.
The African-American athletes of the Mizzou football team were moved to action by the hunger strike of a fellow African-American student.
What makes this protest unique was that those Black players were able to convince their white teammates and head coach Gary Pinkel to join them in the protest. University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe eventually resigned.

Temple Owls: Best Team in Philly in a Bad Year for City Sports Teams

28 Nov
TempleOwls2015

The 2015 Temple Owls Football team has been the only bright spot in a bad year for Philadelphia sports teams.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

To say that this has been an awful year for Philadelphia’s professional sports teams would be an understatement.

The Phillies spent the entire Major League Baseball season in the National League East’s basement. The Flyers didn’t make the National Hockey League playoffs. We’re not even going to talk about the 76ers and the fact that they haven’t won a game yet this season.

Even the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that most sports fans have traditionally seen as the ray of light in the Professional Sports darkness here in Philadelphia, are giving fans fits. At the beginning of the year, these fans had visions of Super Bowl 50 dancing in their heads.

Now, nothing would make them happier than hearing the news that head coach Chip Kelly is heading back to the college ranks. Especially after the debacle that was last Sunday’s 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Eagles defense, the team’s lone bright spot, became part of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s highlight reel as he threw for five touchdown passes.

Right now, the only thing standing between Philly’s sports fans and collectively jumping off the Ben Franklin and/or Walt Whitman bridges is the Temple University Owls’ football team.

No, you read that right. The college football team that set the record for consecutive losses is the only team holding it’s own right now.

In a year when fans in the city of Brotherly Love have had little to cheer about, the Owls have been the best team in the city and the best FBS college football team in the state.

This weekend, Temple (9-2, 6-1) will be playing for the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division title when they take on the Connecticut Huskies (6-5, 4-3) Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

If the Owls win, they will take on the winner of the Navy-Houston game in the AAC Championship game. At the beginning of this season, no one would have thought Temple would be the best team playing at Lincoln Financial Field season.

No matter what happens on Saturday night, the 2015 season has been special for Temple and for the city because they’ve given normally cynical, angry fans something to cheer about in a bad year for Philly sports teams.

When the team upset Penn State in front of a packed house at Lincoln Financial Field, you had the sense that this was going to be a different season for Temple football. The team won it’s first seven games, and came within a play or two from upsetting sixth-ranked Notre Dame, another sell-out game that led to a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay and turned the City of Brotherly Love into the nation’s largest college town.

Led by head coach Matt Rhule, a guy who doesn’t come off as one of those college football coaches who cares more about his ego than his team’s success, the team has played with passion. You can’t coach football or any team for that matter in this city without wearing your emotions on your sleeve, and Rhule appears to understand that.

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker is currently the best quarterback playing at Lincoln Financial Field. He’s thrown 17 touchdown passes, only six interceptions, and has passed for 2,209 yards. He has the ability to make plays in the pocket and to extend plays with his feet.

Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who was recently nominated for the Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player, has been the Owls enforcer in the middle. He leads the team in tackles (107, 65 solo). Matakevich was tailor-made to be a linebacker for a Philly football team.

He’s tough, gritty and takes a blue-collar approach to the game making him a player former Eagles great Chuck Bednarik would appreciate.

Even if the Owls lose to UConn on Saturday or lose in the AAC Championship game, it’s still been a great ride and they’ll still go to a nationally televised bowl game.

But no matter what happens, the Owls have made Philadelphia a college football town again…which considering how the pros are playing, didn’t take a lot…

Bring on the Fighting Irish: Unbeaten Temple Ready for No. 9 Notre Dame at the Linc

30 Oct

TempleNDlogo

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Temple's P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday' game against Notre Dame.

Temple’s P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday’ game against Notre Dame.

PHILADELPHIA—The City of Brotherly Love will become one of the nation’s largest college towns this weekend with all the pomp and circumstance accompanying the game where unbeaten, No. 21 Temple (7-0, 4-0) will try to prove it belongs among the elite teams in college football when it takes on No. 9 Notre Dame Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field in front of nationally-televised audience.

As an event, this game is probably the second biggest thing to happen to Philly since the recent visit of Pope Francis. It’s so big that the cast and crew of ESPN’s College Game Day will take over Independence Mall for it’s weekly college football preview show.

That’s right, you’ll get to see Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso, who Temple fans hope will wear the head of the Temple Owl (meaning he’s predicting a victory for the Cherry and the White.)
In other words, for this weekend at least, the entire city will be Temple University’s Main Campus.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Owls will face their biggest non-conference challenge in a Notre Dame squad that is still in the running for the four-team College Football Playoff. If Temple can pull off the upset, it can make its own case for a seat at that table.

But despite all of the distractions, and let’s face it, College Gameday and everything that goes with it is a distraction, Temple head coach Matt Rhule said the focus of his team is not going to change in terms of doing the things they do well.

“To focus on what we can control and to focus on what’s next and embrace the moment …The only thing we can do is control how we play,” Rhule said. “We have great leadership from our older guys and as I told them it has be to about us and how we play. We can’t control how good Notre Dame is. We can control our preparation.”

The Notre Dame (6-1) squad the Owls will be facing is a team that’s had its share of adversity and has somehow fought its way through it. Even though the Fighting Irish lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire to a season-ending ankle injury, DeShone Kizer has stepped in to fill the void and has done well.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Kizer has passed for 1,370 yards, completed 65 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes. It also helps that he has some solid weapons at his disposal. Notre Dame’s best receiver is Philadelphia native and former Roman Catholic star Will Fuller, who leads the Fighting Irish in receiving with 32 catches for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.

Temple’s defense, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense, will also have their hands full with running back C.J. Prosise, who is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He has gained 922 yards and has scored 11 touchdowns.
On the offensive line, the Fighting Irish are led by a pair of mid-season All-Americans in center Nick Martin (6-4, 301) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (6-5, 315).

“They have a really good offensive line, really solid up front,” said defensive lineman Matt Ioannidas. “They have a really strong tailback, but our defense is going to match up well against them. We’re excited to play them.”

Offensively, Temple has its own set of weapons in quarterback P.J. Walker , who’s having a solid season passing the football. He’s completing close to 60 percent of his passes and had nine touchdowns. In the win over East Carolina, Walker completed 19-of-35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. He said his team will be ready for the Notre Dame defense.

“They’re a talented group,” Walker said. “They got a lot of big guys with a lot of speed, but we feel like if we’re playing our game we’ll be alright.”

Running back Jahad Thomas said the Owls have to come into the game focused on beating a Notre Dame defense, led by All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith, who leads the Fighting Irish in tackles.

“It’s not that we’re getting excited to play the Irish, but we know it’s a great opponent ahead of us, but we’ve got to come out and do the things we’ve been doing and just be ready to play,” Thomas said.

Stop Telling Athletes to Just Shut Up and Play

13 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

cardaleJones

A fan on Twitter chided Ohio State quarterback for expressing his views on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PHILADELPHIA—Last month, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones took to Twitter to express his support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and was met with the typical response from fans that African American athletes get whenever they speak on social justice issues.  

Jones tweeted: “#AllLivesMatter why is that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien in custody African-American …You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define “All”?

An Ohio State fan responded with: “Worry about getting us fans another championship …Stay out of this bulls—.”    

Jones shot back at the fan with a Tweet steeped in sarcasm: “Sorry Mr. master, I aints allow to tweet nothing but foolsbaall stuff I donts want you think I more than a foots ball playa sir.”

The fan then apologized to Jones and later shut his Twitter site down.

Last week, I wrote about the complaints that several former Philadelphia Eagles players have leveled about ill treatment at the hands of head coach Chip Kelly, some of which has accused the former Oregon coach of racism. In a recent story on the Bleacher Report website, a pair of unnamed Eagles said that it wasn’t racism, but Kelly’s need to have total, dictatorial control of his team.

Like it or not, some veteran ball players aren’t going to take too well to that kind of coaching and some like former Eagle Brandon Boykin are going to complain about it, possibly in front of a live microphone.

Now whether or not I agree with the athlete isn’t the point. His right to be honest and have his own opinions is. While I have no problem debating the veracity or even the credibility of an athlete’s point of view, it bothers me when fans and media people tell athletes, especially African-American athletes, to just “shut up and play.”

For example, you might have thought that former Eagle Cary Williams’s complaints about Kelly’s hard practices causing team burnout late in the season may have been a little ridiculous considering some of the completions he gave up in some of those games, but I appreciated the man’s honesty.

And it’s hard to take reporters seriously when they complain about clichéd responses from athletes when sincere, heartfelt answers that challenge whatever the prevailing narrative is at the moment also bring scorn.  

Of course, the first response that seems to come from social media or sports talk radio when professional athletes speak their minds is that they have no right to complain because of the millions of dollars they make. It’s as if money is supposed to suppress your right to express yourself.

You’re supposed to turn a blind eye to injustice just because you’re rich. Your financial security means that you can’t protest your work conditions the way Curt Flood did in refusing to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the move that eventually led to free agency in Major League Baseball.

Being a Black man of means doesn’t mean that you won’t still have problems getting a cab in New York or Boston. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get pulled over by the cops for no reason other than the color of your skin like any other Black person in America.

For African-American athletes there’s a perception that they should be grateful for making the millions they make and shouldn’t rock the boat by daring to make a statement about something that impacts everyone, including them. While there is a certain amount of gratitude that these athletes probably have for their God-given abilities, they’re in the NFL because of that ability and their hard work. It’s something they’ve earned…and they shouldn’t be expected to give up their First Amendment rights in order to enjoy it.

What’s really ironic about all this is that I’ve heard those complaints in blue-collar, union towns like Philly, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Seems to me that you folks need a little bit of a history lesson, so let me help you out.

Were it not for people like Walter P. Reuther (United Auto Workers), A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), and Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers), people who refused to just “shut up and work” and rocked the boat instead, that 40-hour work week, with the living wage, the paid sick and vacation days and the healthcare plan that so many of you union workers enjoy wouldn’t exist.

Might want to remember that the next time you want to shut down your favorite athlete on Twitter.

 

 

 

Bama’s Landon Collins Would Be a Good Fit in Philly

16 Apr
Several mock drafts throughout the league are project former Alabama star Landon Collins to be available for the Eagles, who have the 20th pick in the April 30 NFL Draft in Chicago. Photo by Alabama.Rivals. Com

Several mock drafts throughout the league are project former Alabama star Landon Collins to be available for the Eagles, who have the 20th pick in the April 30 NFL Draft in Chicago. Photo by Alabama.Rivals. Com

Collins2

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Barring a bizarre Draft Day move that allows the Philadelphia Eagles to miraculously land 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota or pick up Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel in a trade, look for the Birds to fill their needs in the defensive secondary with their first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

If Chip Kelly decides not to go that route with the first pick, he’s either totally forgotten how his secondary melted down in a horrendous three-game losing streak that bounced the Eagles out of playoff contention near the end of last season, or he’s a fool.

In fact, former Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher is probably still chasing Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant down Broad Street.

Last season, the Eagles were 31st in passing yardage allowed and were tied for 28th in the league for touchdown passes allowed with 30. If they’re going to get back to the playoffs, those numbers have to improve dramatically.

During the free agency period, the Birds made a key upgrade to the secondary when they landed former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell. But the Eagles still need a good safety, a position that hasn’t been relevant since the days of Brian Dawkins.

Most of the Mock Drafts have the Eagles taking former Alabama safety Landon Collins (6-feet-0, 225 pounds) with the 20th pick in the first round and from what I’ve seen on film and during the college football season, he will definitely be an improvement.

Collins is a guy who isn’t afraid of hitting people and can act as an enforcer, something the Eagles haven’t had since Dawkins made his way to the Denver Broncos. According to the various online scouting reports, Collins is an aggressive, explosive hitter who can attack teams in the running game. Last season, he led the Crimson Tide with 103 tackles.

In 41 career games, Collins has shown that he can play both safety spots and will probably line up at strong safety for the Eagles. The draft experts are all saying Collins can use his physicality to disrupt opposing receivers. Collins is a big hitter and can play deep in the middle of a defense in pass coverage as well being the eighth man in the box to stop the run.

Collins is also physical enough to matchup against tight ends and if the Eagles draft him, he will see plenty of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Of course, like every player coming out of college, Collins does have his share of weaknesses that will have to be worked on as he transitions into the pro game. The word on Collins is that he has average hands, which is why I guess he’s playing on the defensive side of the football. He dropped a pair of easy interceptions in games against Texas A&M and Arkansas last season.

He’s also not the fastest guy, according to NFL.com. According to scouting reports on Collins, he has a propensity to be beaten in a footrace and tends to rely on his recovery speed a bit too much, something you can’t do against guys like Bryant, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons or Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Collins also has a tendency to get caught looking in the backfield when quarterbacks call play-action passes. That’s something he’s going to have to learn when he starts playing in the NFL.

At the end of the day, the Eagles would get a guy who doesn’t mind laying the wood on opposing receivers and opposing running backs if they decide to draft Collins. The scouts say he’s the type of player who likes to initiate the action rather than lay back in coverage. His versatility is also a plus.

For a team that hasn’t had a safety that puts the fear of God into wide receivers since 2008, Collins would be a breath of fresh air for an Eagles secondary that could certainly use some.