South Philly Forty: Eagles Purge Continues with the Release of Evan Mathis

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the drama at NovaCare had kind of subsided just a wee bit, the Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made another eye-raising move on Thursday by giving the heave-ho to two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.

While the team hasn’t made an official announcement just yet, Mathis himself made the announcement on Twitter: “Thanks for the memories Philly.”

I guess the first thing that should jump out at you in the midst of Kelly’s purge of the team’s best veteran players is that being outspoken or even looking like you’re a critic of this regime will get you fired. Since assuming command of the team’s football operations, Kelly has made it clear that while a player maybe good, no one is above being kicked to the curb.

You can’t say that move was about race or any of his moves including the trade of running back LeSean McCoy. Kelly has made it emphatically clear that this is his team, ride or die.

The Eagles have become the real-life version of the 1970s football movie, “North Dallas 40.” Kelly, who makes all the personnel decisions, has become B.A. Strothers, the demanding coach played by G.D Spradling, who likened a football team to a well-oiled machine. In one scene the coach in the film if one of those gears from that machine flies off on its own, he would pull it.

Kelly has definitely done that when anyone dared to be a critic of his football ideology. McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams have all been shown the door in one way or the other.   The latest casualty of Kelly’s totalitarian rule is their malcontent Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

Mathis did not show up for the team’s “voluntary” organized team activities mainly because he dared to not be happy with his contract. He wanted more money and he wanted it guaranteed. The Eagles response to Mathis was stay home and don’t ya come back no more.

What makes this move even more painful for Mathis was that he was scheduled to make $5.5 million and $6 million next season. Despite his accomplishments on the field for the last couple years, some observers around the league are saying that it is highly doubtful that’s he going to make that kind of money at 33-years-old—he turns 34 in November.

Throughout the offseason, the Eagles had been looking to trade Mathis, but could find no takers. Given Kelly’s penchant for putting the kybosh on guys who don’t buy into the system, general managers around the league figured why give up a draft choice or a player to be named later when you can sign him as a free agent, possibly at a cheaper price.

The irony of this was that Mathis bought into Kelly’s holistic approach to the football which involves proper diet and nutrition along with getting plenty of sleep. I guess in Kelly’s mind Mathis wanting more money is a violation of a team that he wants to carve into his own image.

And so even with the departure of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, the Birds are still the Logan’s Run of pro football where turning 30-something can be hazardous to your job security no matter how good you were the past couple of seasons.

Somewhere in the state of Ohio, Banner is smiling at Kelly’s handiwork.

Meanwhile, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner will be vying to replace Matthew. My caveat to Kelly is that if you’re going to cut guys they have to be better than the guy being let go.

Running back DeMarco Murray had better have the kind of season to make fans say, LeSean who? Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to stay healthy and be productive enough to make people forget Nick Foles. The Eagles defense with its young defensive backs needs to stop people.

In other words, the end-result of all the offseason moves had better translate into a division title and a run deep into the playoffs. If it doesn’t, Kelly will find out in no uncertain terms that he, too, is expendable as the players he’s cut or traded.

Birds Add Depth at Key Positions, But Not A Super Bowl Contender Just Yet

Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Second-Round Draft Choice Eric Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—So now that the Philadelphia Eagles have made their picks in 2015 NFL Draft, the question fans are asking themselves is if the team is better now than it was before head coach Chip Kelly made some highly publicized moves to make over the team in his image.

To be honest, I don’t think so at this point. There are too many unanswered questions on both sides of the ball to drink the “Philadelphia Eagles are a Super Bowl Contender” Kool-Aid at this point.

Let’s look at the draft picks.

Former University of Southern California star Nelson Agholor, the wide receiver the Eagles picked at number oneis almost a clone of the wide receiver Kelly let go to the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeremy Maclin.

At 6-foot, 190 pounds, he is almost the same as Maclin from a physical standpointAgholor is also a speedy wide out with a reputation running good routes and being a deep threat. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I have the ability to compete and do things I need to do to get open and in blocking,” Agholor said. “I’d like to go where I can help the team and manipulate the coverage.”

Agholor will join a receiving corps that will include veteran Miles Austin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff.  It’s a decent group of pass-catchers—Matthews is coming off a pretty good rookie season with 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

At the same, it’s not a crew that strikes fear into anyone. While Kelly thinks that Agholor can stretch opposing defenses, he’s not going to make anyone forget that DeSean Jackson is no longer in Eagles Green.

“I think he’s got good linear speed that can get down the field and I think people will have to be leery about that,” Kelly said. “He’s got excellent speed, outstanding hands, catches the ball away from his body. Outstanding route runner, real student of the game.”

But the real issue for the Birds is at quarterback. In Sam Bradford, the team has a couple of question mark: Can he learn the system, and can he stay off of Injured Reserve for 16 weeks? That last one is something he hasn’t done since 2012, although he’s saying that he’ll be ready for training camp, meaning that he’ll be healed from his most recent ACL repair. The one edge that he does have is that he ran a similar spread-option offense at Oklahoma.  

Kelly believes that Bradford’s ability to make quick decisions make him an ideal fit for the Eagles fast-paced no-huddle offense. The burden won’t be all on Bradford with running back DeMarco Murray in the Eagles backfield.

But the Birds are a bit shaky on the offensive line.  They got rid of Todd Herremans and have been trying to move guard Evan MathisThe offensive line could be the difference between the Eagles making the playoffs and having to watch from home, especially since the line will not only be protecting a quarterback with a newly repaired knee, but making holes for a running back that has his own fragility issues.

On the defensive side of the football, the draft enabled the Eagles to have some depth in the secondary.  In the second round, the Eagles drafted Utah defensive back Eric Rowe.   At 6-1, 205 pounds, Rowe has the kind of versatility that Kelly likes for his defense, similar to safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has also played cornerback and safety.

Rowe said he studies film of NFL stars like New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Cleveland’s Joe Haden.

I love to hit, I love to come on the blitz and tackle,” Rowe said. “On the press man, l love to take charges on the line of scrimmage. I would say I’m an aggressive corner.”

Prior to his senior year, Rowe played 36 games at the safety position. He played cornerback in his final season with the Utes and had 13 passes defended with one interception. Rowe runs a 4.4 40-yard dash so he has the speed to keep up opposing receivers.

“We’re looking for safeties that can cover and this kid has actually played corner so he’s got those skills,” Kelly said. “He’s a taller and longer guy, so you hope those are things, but we’ll get him in here and look at everything he can do. The fact that he’s got that many starts under his belt at safety but then really excelled at corner this last year is very intriguing to us.”

The Birds further bolstered their defense in the third round by drafting former University of Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had 147 tackles during his senior year. In the sixth round, the Birds picked up two more defensive backs in cornerbacks former Kansas star JaCorey Shepherd and Kansas State’s Randall Evans, who also has played both safety and corner.  

The Eagles closed out the draft with seventh round pick with Boston College defensive end Brian Mihalik, who 4.5 sacks during his senior year.

For the Birds to even be consider a Super Bowl contender, the defense, which gave up 30 touchdown passes last season, has nowhere to go but up.  It also has to stay healthy. Newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alsonso and DeMeco Ryans have to show that they are 100 percent ready to go.  

The rookies on both sides of the ball have to grow up quick because they’re not going to have too much margin for error.  

 

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

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

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?

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.

Will McCoy Trade Make Eagles Better?

LeSean McCoy, the Eagles alll-time leading rusher, is now the newest member of the Buffalo Bills. Photo by Webster Riddick


By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The first day of NFL free agency isn’t until next week (March 10), but the Philadelphia Eagles are already making a lot of noise as head coach Chip Kelly begins his tenure as the man in charge of the team’s personnel decisions.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Birds have traded LeSean “Shady” McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for inside linebacker and former University of Oregon star Kiko Alonso. The trade can’t be finalized until 4 p.m. E.T. next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, McCoy’s agent Drew Rosenhaus denied that the trade has taken place via Twitter.

“I just spoke with the Eagles organization and there is no trade for LeSean at this time,” he said. There have been discussions but nothing has been finalized.”

Soon to be former Bills running back C.J. Spiller told the NFL Network the Bills called him to inform him that the team was acquiring McCoy and that it told him that his services were no longer needed in Buffalo.

A source close to McCoy told ESPN that 2013 NFL rushing leader is frustrated by the proposed trade and is  “not going to make it easy”—whatever that means.    

The trade was no doubt a cost cutting move for the Eagles because McCoy’s salary counted $11.95 million against the Birds 2015 cap. The Bills will have to pay McCoy, who is signed through 2017, $10.25 million this season.  

In addition to trading McCoy, the Eagles released longtime defensive end Trent Cole, who would have counted $11.6 million against the salary cap and veteran cornerback Cary Williams whose salary was a little over $ 8 million against the cap.

Now the Eagles have to find a replacement for a running back in McCoy who ran for 6,792 yards rushing and averaged 100.2 yards from scrimmage in six seasons playing for the Birds. Last season, he was third in the NFL in rushing with 1,319 yards.McCoy had the best year of his career in 201when he rushed for 1,607 yards while leading the league in rushing.

The question is will the Eagles go the free agent route for a running back where you have guys like DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson of the market or find new running back in the upcoming NFL draft with players like University of Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon and University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Since Kelly’s offense is predicated upon having a strong running game, he needs to replace McCoy’s versatility at that position quickly. That’s going to easier said than done. While everyone likes to say the NFL has become a passing league, you still need a difference maker at the running back position.  

The Eagles are expecting Alonso to be that tough enforcer in the middle and to play with the same level of intensity he did during his rookie with the Bills in 2013. He had 159 tackles and finished second in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Before the start of last season, Alonso tore his ACL and was done for the season.  Because of this and Alonso’s history of injuries, Birds fans are wondering if Alonzo will be the second coming of Ray Lewis, or someone that the Philadelphia 76ers would have wasted a draft pick on.

Alonso will need to be a difference maker immediately for a defense that couldn’t stop snitching. The Philadelphia Eagles defense ranked a mediocre 28th in yards allowed (31st against the pass).

On the surface, this trade, along with the release of two other veterans is a sign to fans that Kelly is also maneuvering to move up in the draft to get Heisman Trophy and University of Oregon standout Marcus Mariota, whom Kelly coached.

But if he were as smart as he thinks he is, Kelly would have used McCoy as a bargaining chip to move up instead of sending him as a birthday gift to new Bills coach Rex Ryan.

This also doesn’t do anything to solve the Eagles other problems. The team is looking to re-sign wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The needs at the cornerback and safety positions are so obvious Stevie Wonder could see them.

Kelly’s bold moves will either make him look like the second coming of Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl or make him look like a colossal failure a la Nick Saban and other college coaches who couldn’t make it in the pros.

But in any case, the Eagles have already won the one competition they’ve scored high in since Jeffrey Lurie bought the team years ago.

They have, once again, won the Salary Cap Bowl.

Eagles Cash in Their Biggest Chip on Alonso

New Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso will join a defense that ranked 28th in yards allowed. Photo by Buffalo Bills.com

New Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso will join a defense that ranked 28th in yards allowed. Photo by Buffalo Bills.com


By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report


PHILADELPHIA–Are the Philadelphia Eagles threatening to become Oregon East? Or is there a method to Chip Kelly’s madness in what has begun to transpire this NFL offseason?

With rumors running rampant that the Birds will make every effort to trade up in the 2015 NFL Draft so that they might acquire former Duck Marcus Mariota, Kelly plucked another one of his star fledglings yesterday when in principle the team acquired linebacker Kiko Alonso from the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills’ bill for this Duck? One of the best running backs in the game, 26-year-old LeSean McCoy, the same Shady who led the NFL in rushing in 2013 with 1,607 yards and is the game’s third-leading rusher since he came into the league in 2009.

One of the game’s most durable backs (having missed only six games in six seasons), McCoy was the Eagles’ face of the franchise and will be difficult to replace, having amassed over 9,000 yards from scrimmage during that time.

Superficially, the move makes sense as NFL running backs tend to wear out faster than the tread on a decade-old tire. And by averaging only 4.2 yards per carry, matching his lowest average since his rookie year, maybe the Eagles are wise to get something in return for McCoy before his value shrinks to nothing, though his age is not a factor.

Add the savings on what is reported by the Philadelphia Daily News to be an $11.95 million salary cap number and the move looks savvy.

Alonso was a standout for Kelly at Oregon and second in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race two seasons ago, making 159 tackles. When healthy, Alonso plays sideline to sideline and can play every linebacking position. For a defense that finished 28th overall last season (including 31st against the pass), he would seem to be a great acquisition.

But the operative words in the above assessment are ‘when healthy’ because Alonso’s resume in that area isn’t exactly sparkling of late.

Alonso’s rise to superstardom was cut short last summer when he tore his left ACL while working out back in Eugene. Seven months of rehab followed and while he is reportedly doing well, it remains to be seen if he will be as dominant as before the injury (which was his second major knee injury as he sat out all of 2010 rehabbing an injury sustained in the spring).

Just five weeks before last summer’s knee issue, Alonso was sidelined by a torn labrum. And while Alonso didn’t miss a game in 2013, he ‘’tweaked’’ his knee late in the season and played at less than 100 percent.

The dropoff wasn’t significant, but he recorded fewer tackles in the second half of the year and didn’t have a sack, forced fumble or interception in any of the team’s final seven games.

Does that sound like the type of player one would want to trade for LeSean McCoy?

Make no mistake that the Eagles need to get better defensively if they are to get back to the top of the NFC East, a division wide open as the Cowboys face running back issues and the Giants and Redskins hope to rebound from sorry seasons. A healthy Alonso, who in 2013 looked like one of the best young linebackers in the game, could be one of the pieces to get them there.

But the Eagles may just as easily be on a wild goose chase in opting for a player, who also has a history of being hypersensitive and carries some off-the-field baggage. In 2010, before he got injured, he was cited for DUI.

Then in May, 2011, he was arrested and charged with felony burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass. Alonso received two years’ probation and did 200 hours of community service while Kelly suspended him from the team.

Almost four years down the road, Alonso has done much to mature and move beyond his shady past. But he will have do a lot more to justify the trade of Shady, one of the best backs in Eagles’ history, in a move that carries just as much risk as possible reward.

 

Keeping Maclin, McCoy, Improving Secondary a Priority for Kelly

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

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that Chip Kelly has assumed control of all the Eagles personnel decisions, the burden on him to win a championship has been increased exponentially.

Now the last time an Eagles head coach had that much control over the players he could bring in, do you remember the results?

Yes, it was four trips to the NFC title game including a Super Bowl appearance, a team that consistently stayed under the salary cap, a bizarre disregard for certain positions on defense and at the receiver position (except for one year with Terrell Owens) , a front-office power struggle, and a city without an NFL championship since 1960.

Under Andy Reid as head coach and head personnel guy, the Eagles were good, but were always a couple of pieces away from being a great team that could win a Super Bowl.

First and foremost, Kelly is going to have to find a general manager or player personnel guy that can find the players that he can trust that’s going to fit the profile he wants for his team.
It’s the NFL’s equivalent of a guy in charge of recruiting at the collegiate level; something Kelly has experience with during his days at Oregon.

Kelly will be in charge of the draft, trades and bringing in free agents while Howie Roseman, who was promoted to vice president for football operations, will responsible for signing the checks.

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie hopes that Kelly and Roseman can be on one accord unlike Reid and former team vice president Joe Banner. If there were a Salary Cap Bowl the Eagles would have been the greatest of all-time. On the field, the Eagles were a very good team, but couldn’t get over that championship hump.

The first priority for Kelly as “the man” will be to re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and restructuring LeSean McCoy’s contract.

Since he is now in charge of personnel decisions, suffice it to say he will be involved in making sure those guys stay in Philly.

Kelly would like to accomplish what New England’s Bill Belichick has accomplished as the man in charge of personnel with three Super Bowls. Seattle’s Pete Carroll who also has say-so over the players he chooses, has the Lombardi trophy on his mantle as well.

Fans are hoping that Kelly, unlike his predecessor, will bring in guys who are going to make a real impact on the defensive side of the ball. In the draft and in free agency, defense should be a major priority.

Instead of bringing in projects like former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith, Kelly needs to sign guys who are ready to make an impact now—whether it’s in the draft or free agency.

The Eagles need to get better in the secondary. Both cornerback Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen are going to be free agents. I don’t think Kelly is going to move heaven and earth to get those guys back nor should he do so.

Not since Brian Dawkins or even Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown have the Eagles had a secondary that covered anybody and put a hard hit on an opposing receiver.

At the collegiate level , some of the highly –touted stars include Michigan State’s redshirt junior corner Trae Waynes who played a lot of press coverage in the Spartans highly-touted defense the last two seasons, especially playing alongside Darquez Dennard, who had a solid rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFLDraftScout.com rated Waynes the No 1 cornerback in the country and is expected to be taken in the first round. If he’s available, the Eagles should draft him.

Before his season-ending knee injury, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpr-Olomu was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Ekpr-Olomu was so proficient as a cover corner that opposing quarterbacks rarely threw in his area. He had nine passes defended and two interceptions.

Because of the injury, Ekpr-Olomu’s stock will probably fall, but don’t be surprised if ends up with the Eagles because of Kelly’s affinity for former Oregon players.

Florida State has two good prospects at the cornerback P.J. Williams (74 tackles, one interception) and Ron Darby, who didn’t have an interception this last year, but the scouts seemed to like his speed at the cornerback position.

Top collegiate possibilities at the safety position are Alabama’s Landon Collins (6-0, 222) who has a reputation for being a heady, but physical safety, something the Eagles haven’t had in quite some time and Louisville’s Gerod Hollimon, a playmaking safety, something else the Birds haven’t had in a while.

In 2014, Hollimon had 14 interceptions by himself, more than the entire Eagles secondary this past season.

But if you don’t like the college guys, the 2015 free agent class in the secondary. The pickings at the safety position are slim. On some lists, New England’s Devin McCourty, who is considered a playmaker and has played at the cornerback position before switching to safety.  He had a huge interception in last Saturday’s playoff against Baltimore and allowed just one pass for 17 yards. He had 68 tackles and two interceptions during the regular season.

At the cornerback position, New England’s Darelle Revis is the top cornerback out there. Seattle’s Byron Maxwell, who had 39 tackles and two interceptions playing along side Richard Sherman, will be in the free agent market.  The question is will it be worth it for the birds to spend a lot of money for that position?

Kelly, Roseman and Lurie will all have to be on the same page—Easier said than done if you believe all the rumors of an apparent between Roseman and Kelly.

Eagles Believe They are Close to Being an Elite Team, but Face Challenges in 2015

 

LeSean McCoy  is open to have his contracted to keep him on the Eagles..  Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy is open to have his contract restructured to keep him on the Eagles.. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Despite having a 10-6 record that would have easily won a weak NFC South, the Eagles missed the playoffs and are left with the feeling of what could have been if they could have only gotten out of the way of themselves.

“We’re right there,” said running back Darren Sproles. “When you get to December, you have to win in December. Even with the turnovers we were right there.”

On offense, the Eagles committed a league-leading 36 turnovers-including a combined 27 by both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. Those self-imposed mistakes are among the reasons the Birds are home for the postsesason.

“Coming off last year, we knew we had a good team, we started off 9-3 and to lose the way we did at the end of the season is very uncharacteristic of us,” said tight end Zach Ertz. “Usually, we get stronger as the season progresses, but we can’t put any of the onus on anybody but on ourselves.”

While cleaning out their lockers Monday, several Eagles players said despite missing the playoffs in 2014, they are close to being one of the elite teams in the NFL.

“It’s encouraging because we got 10 wins and we really beat ourselves all year,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins. “But the thing yet to be corrected for next year is can we stop beating ourselves. …That’s one thing we’ve got to stop this offseason. Once we learn two things-If we can keep the ball in front of us on defense and not turn the ball over that much on offense, we can go from a 10-win team to an elite team.”

On the defensive end, you could make the argument that the Eagles front-seven had a pretty goodseason. The Birds were tied for second in the NFL in sacks with Connor Barwin leading the way with 14.5 sacks.

The downside to that was the Eagles were next to last in the league in passing yardage yielded. Opposing teams passed for 4,238 yards against a suspect secondary. In the three-game losing streak that took the Birds out of the playoff, they gave up too many big plays in the passing game.

“There were no breakdowns, it’s just matchups and not winning those matchups,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got receivers that are at the top of their game and at an elite level. It’s hard to win those matchups on every down. A lot of those times we’ve had help over the top. We can’t double team every play and so when they had those opportunities they took advantage of it and we didn’t win.”

The weakness in the Eagles defense was their secondary. In that critical three-game losing streak, the difference in the game came down to giving up big plays in the passing game.

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who gave up plays of 25 yards or more in losses to Washington and Dallas, will be a free agent and so will safety Nate Allen. Don’t look for the Eagles to go out of their way to bring those guys back.

On offense, it has been widely speculated the Eagles aren’t necessarily happy with Foles has a franchise quarterback even though he’s 14-4 as a starter under head coach Chip Kelly. Foles critics point to his 10 interceptions and his struggles during the eight games he played in before he broke his left collarbone.

There has also been talk the Eagles might draft another quarterback or somehow move up to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.

As far as Foles is concerned, he said he’s the Eagles starting quarterback until Kelly or the organization tells him otherwise. Neither Kelly nor owner Jeffrey Lurie would say whether they were committed to him as the starter for next year.

“I expect to be the guy to lead them and win games,” Foles said. “It’s tough sitting on the sideline when you want to be out there. …It’s coming from my heart. That’s where I really expect to be and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be the best Nick Foles possible.”

The Eagles are also looking re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin,who had the best year of his career in 2014. He caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdown passes.

The Birds also have to figure out a way to keep running back LeSean McCoy, who is due to make $9.75 million. The team could save $7.55 million under the salary cap if they release McCoy, who said he was open to restructuring his contract.

Meanwhile, Kelly said he wants to keep both Maclin and McCoy because they are important to his offense, but he also knows that he has to take the business of the game into consideration.

“Yeah, I’m in charge of the roster in terms of who our 53 are so I have to weigh in on that,” Kelly said. “But I also know there are other factors, salary cap money and the numbers and all those other things.”

Eagles Shortcomings Bite Them in Critical Stretch of the Season

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

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. He has82 catches and 10 touchdown passes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re in the playoffs or making a run for the postseason during the latter stages of the regular season, the loss that ultimately ends your season often exposes the weakness or weaknesses that’s bothered you all season.

That was definitely the case with the Eagles who will be spending January watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Washington and the Dallas Cowboys win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas wins the NFC East while the Eagles, who will close out the 2014 season on the road against the New York Giants, will be spending the offseason trying to figure out what went wrong.

The Eagles season came down to losses in their last three games and was reflective of the shortcomings that all knew were there, but were hoping they can somehow overcome. In the end, they couldn’t get out of the way themselves enough when it counted.

Even before Nick Foles season-ending injury, the Eagles struggled for consistency at the quarterback position. After Foles tossed 27 touchdown passes against two interceptions last season, he was inconsistent in the eight games he started. He had 13 touchdown passes and 13 turnovers 10 interceptions and three fumbles.

At times, Foles has held the ball too long and made pump fakes that gave opposing defensive that extra split second to make a play on the ball.

Sanchez, too, was a turnover machine in the seven games he started this season with 13. Eagles’ quarterbacks have committed a combined 26 turnovers including 20 interceptions. The Birds lead the league in turnovers with 35 and are 25th in the NFL in takeaway-giveaway ratio at minus-eight.

When your quarterbacks are committing nearly 75 percent of your team’s turnovers, you are not going to be a playoff team or if you do get to the playoffs, you’re not going to be there very long.
In the three-game losing streak that ultimately bounced them out of the playoffs, the Eagles committed eight turnovers.

In defense of Eagles quarterbacks, especially Foles, the offensive line had its share of injuries early in the season and had problems protecting the quarterback. Center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis have missed time due to injury. Veteran guard Todd Heremanns is currently on the injured reserve list.

All that said, some Eagles fans are beginning to doubt their faith in Foles as the starting quarterback and are hoping the team can move up in the NFL dream so they can draft Oregon star Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

While Mariota and Winston would fit Chip Kelly’s offense quite well, I don’t think it’s going to happen because I don’t think the Eagles are interested in giving up the kitchen sink or the entire front office’s first born to get either one of those guys.

For now, they are invested in Foles and the Eagles certainly have justification for doing so. Foles has done quite well in Kelly’s tenure as head coach.

“Yeah I think we know what we have in Nick,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “And we’ve seen a guy that I think, by last count, he’s 14-4 as a starter. So that’s really how you judge a quarterback.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the back end of the Eagles defense. Some of those guys can and should be replaced.

Since the departures of Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, the Eagles secondary haven’t quite put the fear of God into the hearts and minds of opposing receivers.

At the cornerback position, the Birds are very average at best and just plain awful or worse at times. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a decent player, has been the weak link in the secondary for the last two weeks. He has been burned for three touchdowns and has given up at least four plays of 25 yards or more.

In Fletcher’s defense, he was going one-on-one against Dez Bryant and the speedy former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson. Some safety help would have been nice. At the same time, the secondary has been a weakness masked by the solid play of the Eagles front seven. The Birds are second in the NFL in sacks with 49.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Eagles defense has improved since he took over last year, but the deep ball has been an Achilles Heel.

“In a lot of categories, yes and in a very important one, the deep pass, the vertical ball, the plus 20-yard passes, we’re not,” Davis said. “I’ve got to get that fixed.”

Ya think.

The Eagles aren’t a bad football team now, but in order for the team to go forward and really be a contender they’re going to make some personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball.

In the wake of the Eagles not making the playoffs, fans and a few local media people are questioning the release of former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whose ability to stretch the defense made the Birds offense one of the most dangerous in the NFL last season.

Some observers are saying if Jackson was with the Eagles along with Jeremy Maclin, rookie Jordan Matthews, and Riley Cooper—the Birds offense would be even more dangerous. Running back LeSean McCoy, who is fourth in the league in rushing, would have even more yards on the ground.

While you might have a legitimate argument on one level, it may not have mattered if Jackson was there given the struggles of the quarterbacks with turnovers and the injuries to the offensive line.

If you’re still mad about the Jackson trade, consider the following:

Coming into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Giants, Maclin has 82 receptions for 1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns. McCoy has 1,220 yards rushing—not as good as last year, but he’s still in the league’s top five.

Darren Sproles had more touchdown passes than Jackson with eight and gave defenses more than something to think about. If not for New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Matthews might be in the NFL Rookie-of-the-Year conversation-he caught 59 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.

What really bothers fans about the Jackson release was that the Eagles got nothing of equal value or better on either side of the ball. That was the real tragedy of letting go of your best receiver.

During this offseason, the Eagles have to get better if they want to be in the postseason in 2015.