Tag Archives: Byron Maxwell

Eagles 2015 Training Camp Preview: Several Unanswered Questions

2 Aug

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

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –With the Phillies playing out a bad season, sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love are now focused on the only team that has a chance to have a winning season and make a run to the postseason.

As Philadelphia Eagles training camp approaches, fans have a lot to be excited about and also a lot of reasons to be concerned. The Birds situation is arguably better than that of the city’s other three teams because despite all of the changes, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that Eagles fans have to feel good about is that DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, will be their starting running back. They will also have good change of pace backs in Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a whole lot of question marks on the offense. After cutting offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the Birds are hoping that Allen Barbre (6-4, 310 pounds), likely the new left guard, and Matt Tobin (6-6, 290), whose expected to win the starting job at right guard, will be upgrades at these positions.

The team also signed John Moffitt (6-4, 319) last month. Moffitt, who took a year away from football to deal with substance abuse issues, gives Eagles some much need depth along the offensive line in case someone gets hurt. The way things have gone for the Eagles in terms of injuries last year that might be important. Dennis Kelly (6-8, 321), Andrew Gardner (6-6, 308) and Kevin Graf (6-6, 309) also have to be ready to go are among the guys that need to be ready even if you have injuries to the starters.

Having a solid offensive line is crucial because the Eagles have to protect starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played a full season since 2012. If he can survive the season, fans will definitely be optimistic. But if Bradford gets hurt, can head coach Chip Kelly or the fan base stomach the idea of the mistake-prone Mark Sanchez running the Eagles offense for a sustained period of time?

Among the Eagles wide receiver corps, will second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews become the go-to-guy in the passing game? Will rookie Nelson Agholor, with his 4.4 speed, be able to find his way on the field and be an important part of the Eagles passing game? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On defense, the Eagles will have a solid front-seven that includes linebackers DeMeco Ryans and newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. This could also be a breakout season for defensive end Fletcher Cox, who is coming off a 2014 season in which he had a career-high in tackles with 70 (59 solo) and four sacks.

The sticking point for the Eagles defense coming into the 2015 season is the secondary, which got torched quite often late in the season. The inability of the Birds secondary to keep opposing receivers from piling up yards and lighting up the scoreboard kept them out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

The Eagles ranked 31st in net passing yards per game in 2014 and the most touchdowns of 20 yards or more and the only holdover from that unit is safety Malcolm Jenkins.

The Birds got former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played well during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. But there’s uncertainty about Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe, the other two guys vying for cornerback spots. Carroll is a pro that couldn’t get much playing time in the other places he’s played and Rowe is a second-round draft pick who hasn’t played a down as a pro.

Meanwhile at the other safety spot, Kelly is counting on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Thurmond is a converted cornerback who has never played at the safety spot and has been injury-prone throughout his five-year career.

If the Eagles fail to shore up this part of their defense, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant could be licking their chops.

Eagles Fans: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Your Pessimism, It’s Not as Good or Bad As You Think

24 Apr
Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The early reviews of Chip Kelly’s offseason moves have sparked two very distinct reactions from fans.

If you listen to an old high school chum of mine who is also a diehard Eagles fan, the moves that Kelly has made, moves that include trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, letting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson go due to free agency and just plain hubris, and trading Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for an injury-prone Sam Bradford, mark the beginning of the Birds apocalypse..

My friend expects the Eagles to be winless by the halfway point of the season and for Kelly to be unceremoniously ridden out of town on a rail. Until then, he’s done with the team.

Then you have those Eagles fans that my Significant Other equates to fans of Tyler Perry movies; fans so willing to trust anyone in Eagles Green that they’ll cheer any move they make, even if it’s one that the management of her crazy, but beloved, Oakland Raiders wouldn’t.

After all, the Birds signed the NFL’s leading rusher, former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, to a lucrative free agent deal. The Eagles have also acquired former San Diego Chargers running Ryan Matthews and former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell to help the team’s struggling pass defense.

Another move that turned heads this week was the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow, a move that rankles Kelly’s detractors and is seen by his supporters as proof of his willingness to think outside the box.

But here are some things to think about as you debate the Eagles offseason moves.

Murray, the man replacing McCoy, is not chopped liver. He almost single-handedly took a Dallas Cowboys team with a mediocre defense to the playoffs in 2014 and running style seems to fit what Kelly wants in a back, someone who’s going to power through the hole and not dance around as McCoy sometimes did..

Matthews will be a solid backup to keep the Birds from overusing Murray. At 6-foot, 220 pounds, he has no fear of contact and will hit the hole quickly. He gained 1,255 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns with the San Diego Chargers in 2013.

And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who can still run as a speedy change of pace back that can catch passes on third down situations.

And if you’re thinking that Maxwell was simply riding on the coat tails of Richard Sherman, his superstar counterpart in Seattle, consider this: according to the website, Pro Football Focus.com, a website that keeps track of virtually every play of every NFL play, Maxwell held opposing quarterbacks to an average quarterback rating of 78.5.

And because teams didn’t want to throw in Sherman’s direction, Maxwell was the fourth most targeted corner in the league.

That said, don’t get too excited or start picking your hotel room in San Jose, the site for Super Bowl 50 just yet. This team is a long way from being a finished product.

The Eagles still need a safety that can cover and knock the living snot out of a ball carrier or a receiver unfortunate enough to catch a pass in his presence. The team also needs to increase its depth in the secondary. Maxwell may be a part of the solution, but the problem is still there.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles need to fill the rather large holes left by Maclin and Jackson at wide receiver. Let’s be honest here, Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews are scaring no one.

But the real mystery is at quarterback. With the current crew, there’s no one that gives you any real long or short term hope.

First, you have Sam Bradford, the quarterback that the Eagles got from the Rams and who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012.

You also have Mark Sanchez, who literally threw the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

And then there’s Tebow, a quarterback with a rating so low that it would appear he’s done nothing but throw to Byron Maxwell his entire career.

On one hand, bringing Tebow in to run the read-option makes sense because he ran a similar offense in college. The Eagles have run the read-option 514 times over the last two years more than any other team. Tebow is more mobile than Bradford and backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. He has 989 career rushing yards.

But if you’re going to be a quarterback in the NFL, it might be a good idea if you knew how to pass.

Tebow has completed just 47 percent of his passes. While there are some football observers who say that since Kelly’s offense is geared to the run and shorter passes a QB with a big arm isn’t necessary, defenses get wise to that after a while.

With the draft on the horizon, I still wouldn’t put it past Kelly to come up with some crazy scheme to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or draft a mobile quarterback, possibly UCLA’s Brett Hundley. But like most of his offseason moves, no one knows what’s coming.

So while Philadelphia Eagles fans shouldn’t head to the Walt Whitman or Ben Franklin Bridges to take that final leap, they also shouldn’t bet the mortgage and car payment on a trip to Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in February, either.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Breaking it Down: Did Eagles Free Agents Moves Put Them in the Right Direction?

21 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

PHILALDELPHIA—When the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Eagles fans began pulling out their collective hair.

When the team didn’t re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was coming off his best year as an NFL wide receiver, and said good-bye to fan favorites like defensive end Trent Cole, many fans started combing the want ads in search of a general manager to put to put Coach Chip Kelly’s baser impulses in check.

Was he giving away the farm so he could draft his old Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota? Or was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith correct in wondering if Kelly was just thinning his herd of Black players?

Then the Birds traded Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford.  For some diehard fans, that the Eagles were content with remaining the champs of the “Salary Cap Bowl.”

But when the dust settled, Kelly may have had the last laugh when the Birds landed the biggest prize of the March free-agent period, former Dallas Cowboys running DeMarco Murray.

“We felt like when the opportunity with LeSean came up and it was offered, you’ve got an outstanding  young linebacker at a position that we had a huge need at,” Kelly said. “Really the biggest factor with LeSean, it was LeSean and the money and what could that get us.”

Kelly even took time to dispel any notion that he was still going after Mariota in the upcoming NFL Draft. Although, you probably shouldn’t put it past him given what has transpired thus far.

“I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft,” Kelly said at a recent press conference. “We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that because we have too many other holes that we are going to take care of.”

Former Eagles linebacker and WIP Radio host Garry Cobb said the only way Kelly would be able to pick up Mariota if he’s not picked in the top five.

“I think the longer he’s on there and he gets to 10, I think it’s going to be difficult for Chip not to make a move to get him,” Cobb said.

The Eagles signed Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, to a five-year contract for $42-million ($18-milion guaranteed). The Birds had offered a three-year deal to former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, but he changed his mind and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The main caveat with both Murray and Bradford is that they both have had their share of injuries. Bradford missed all of last season and part of the 2013 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Dating back to his college days at Oklahoma, Murray has had seven injuries in his legs-knee injuries, ankle injuries and hamstring ailments.

That reality made Cobb question the wisdom of the Eagles giving Murray so much money.

“The whole thing is you’ve got stay healthy,” Cobb said. “I don’t think it’s a frugal or wise thing to do to put all that money into a running back knowing that running backs do get hurt and you’re going to guarantee him $18-21 million.  That’s high for a running back …and it’s the same thing for the quarterback. A lot of times availability is better than ability.  If they don’t stay healthy all bets are off.”

Last season, Murray ran for a league-leading 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to their first NFC East crown since 2009.  The former Oklahoma star said he likes the Birds chances of making it to the Super Bowl and winning it.

“I felt this was a great opportunity for me to win a Super Bowl at the end of the day,” Murray said. “It wasn’t about financial security or anything like that.  I think the Eagles have a great chance to win the Super Bowl. It’s not going to be easy. I know there’s a lot of hard work to be done. It’s easy to stand up here and say that, but we got to get to work.”

The Eagles also signed former San Diego Chargers star running back Ryan Matthews, who will get a few carries to take the burden off Murray.

The Eagles offense wasn’t the only beneficiary of Kelly’s bold moves. The team’s much-maligned secondary got a huge boost with the signing of former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell.

As a key of member of the Seahawks famed “Legion of Boom” secondary, Maxwell led his team in passes defended because teams refused to throw toward his teammate cornerback Richard Sherman.  While he is definitely better than what the Eagles had last season, Maxwell has a lot to prove in his first year without arguably the best shutdown corner in the game playing alongside him.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Maxwell was targeted once for every 5.8 cover snaps, allowing just one touchdown and holding passers to a 78.5 quarterback rating. Only three other corners in the league who were targeted as often Maxwell were better than him.  In 2014, he had a pair of interceptions and defended 12 passes.

“Without a doubt I think (Maxwell) has the opportunity to be an outstanding cornerback,” Cobb said. “He did have a lot of heat on him last year playing opposite of Richard Sherman and they’re throwing at you every down. Anytime your guy is open, they’re looking for your guy by them staying away from Sherman. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Even with Murray and Maxwell, the Eagles still need to pick up a wide receiver and a safety via the draft or the next wave of free agency in June.

“We are trying to accumulate as many good football players as we can,” Kelly said.

But if they’re not as good as the ones he got rid of, Kelly may be heading back to Oregon sooner than he planned.