Tag Archives: NFL Draft

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

12 May
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.  

 

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.

Respect Difference: Sam’s Kiss is a Defiant Message Against Bigotry

14 May

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

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social media firestorm.

PHILADELPHIA—In a television special on NBC in 1968, Harry Belafonte and white British pop singer Petula Clark performed an anti-war duet—“Path to Glory”.
During the course of the performance, Clark touched Belafonte’s arm.

A white account executive from Chrysler, the sponsor of the show, demanded that the segment be deleted from the special before it aired not only because it would offend viewers from the South, but because it offended the account executive’s racial sensibilities as well. He wanted it replaced with video that showed Belafonte and Clark performing the song, but standing apart.

But Clark and her husband, the executive producer of the show, refused to allow the sentiments of the Chrysler executive or Southern viewers to make them change the segment.

It was the first time a Black man and a white woman touched one another on national television.

Fast forward to the 2014 NFL Draft.

University of Missouri star defensive end Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round and celebrated the moment, the moment of becoming the first openly gay player to be picked in the NFL Draft, by kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, on camera.

Social media, as it is wont to do, blew up shortly afterward. While many found it historic, there was a contingent of folks, most of them male, who couldn’t get past the fact Sam, the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, was kissing a man on camera.

For some of us card-carrying heterosexuals, it was a bit over the top. The reactions I saw on Facebook, Twitter, and among the people at my favorite watering hole kept bringing a line from the Gil Scott-Heron classic hit “B” Movie to mind:

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….”

Witnessing people whine about their discomfort and display their prejudices with the pride they’d rather not see gays and lesbians express in regard to this situation made me truly understand why my gay brothers and sisters have been so fervently fighting for their right to express themselves.

American society has always had this “discomfort” with people who aren’t White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexuals. There’s this perception that you are only a true American if you’re willing to sacrifice your culture, your beliefs, and even your sexual orientation to appease the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the White men who run this society. Difference is seen as inferior in America and because it’s inferior, it must be stamped out.

Over the years, I have watched and covered the NFL Draft. When a young athlete hears his name being called, he kisses his mom and his wife or his girlfriend. It’s a happy day for that young man.

But while we tend not to look twice when a young man engages in a public display of affection with his Mom or female Significant Other, the Double Standard reared its ugly head when Sam and Cammisano kissed.

The most common reaction I saw was “Why do we have to see that?!”, which was closely followed by “Why are gay people are trying to impose their lifestyle on us?!” and my personal favorite, “What do I say to my kids?!”

Let’s keep it real, here. You were watching the NFL Draft and this happened. That’s why you saw it. Secondly, unless something has changed over the last few days and I don’t know about it, there is no law on the books that makes you have to become a homosexual. Thus, no one is forcing you to do anything.

And lastly, you tell your kids the exact same thing that you tell them when they see a man and a woman kissing: That’s what two people do when they love each other. Unless you’re like most parents, then you cover both of your ears and go “la-la-la-la-la” to avoid the question.

What disappointed me the most is that African Americans, a group of people who are among the experts in how America handles those with whom it is uncomfortable, were the ones asking the questions above.

I was even more disappointed in the straight-up lack of empathy with our gay and lesbian neighbors.

If you need any evidence of just how uncomfortable this country still is with the presence of Black people even after the Civil Rights Movement, go to Google, punch in “Barack Obama”, and catch the wave.

From being stopped by the cops stopping you for no reason, to not being able to get a cab even when dressed in a suit and tie, America shows African Americans just how uncomfortable it is with us on a daily basis.

Even when we do things to make the majority culture comfortable with us like making our kids cut their locs or straighten their hair, it doesn’t help.

That’s unacceptable to me. The idea that gay people, African-Americans or anyone has to go out of their way to appease someone’s comfort and prejudice is just wrong.

For gays and lesbians, fear of violent retribution, losing your job, and being shunned by your family kept such simple things as holding your lover’s hand in public out of reach for decades. Heck, the whole reason for the Stonewall riots, the event that began the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Liberation Movement, was that gay and lesbian patrons were getting tired of being dragged out of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village by New York City police for the simple act of dancing together.

But while the pre-Stonewall days are behind us in a way, the reaction to Sam’s Draft Day kiss shows that while we can tolerate two men dancing together in a dark nightclub, we still can’t handle them holding hands, kissing or any of the myriad public displays of affection that are going on between heterosexual couples right now as we speak.

From the moment he came out and forced NFL general managers to put “openly gay man” and “football player” in the same sentence, Michael Sam has been consistent in putting his happiness before society’s comfort.

And even though you may not like it, you have to respect it.