Some Thoughts On The Eagles Free Agent Signings

So, I read a piece from another blog about how the Eagles’ offseason isn’t as good as advertised. I was going to go through and pick it apart piece by piece but that was taking far too long and I didn’t think you would be interested in reading it all. There was so much wrong with it. Instead of going through the whole thing, I’ll just go through his part about the free agents. I think you guys will like that more. If you have the urge to want to rip your eyes out while simultaneously laughing at this guy’s stupidity, here is the link to the entire piece.

It was only days ago that I was hailing the Eagles as “The Big Winners” in my NFL Offseason Biggest Winners and Losers article for NFL’s Future. Like most, I was initially blown away by Philadelphia’s prolific, big-name, free agency haul, not to mention the fiscally responsible manner in which it was acquired. Now that the smoke has cleared from the looted free agent market, I’m able to step back from the restructured NFL landscape and really take it all in. Surprisingly, the scene in Philadelphia isn’t quite as pretty as I imagined it would be.

That’s what we call rationalization.  Congrats to that guy, he successfully managed to use pseudologic to convince himself of something that is completely untrue. He’s not some brilliant, rational thinker who had a sudden rush if realization through objective thinking, he’s just wrong. There is a reason people are still gushing about the Eagles’ offseason, it’s worthy of praise.

LDE Jason Babin- It’s easy to assume that Babin will automatically be the same guy he was in 2010, when he set a career high for sacks (12.5), simply because he followed D-line coach Jim Washburn from Tennessee to Philadelphia. I’m not so sure. A 31-year old guy who’s played for FIVE teams in EIGHT seasons and never posted more than 5 sacks in any of them conveniently flips the switch during his contract year? You can call him a “late bloomer”…I’m thinking textbook, one-year wonder.

Maybe it’s just me but I figure as a blogger that it’s my job to look into situations and show the full scope of things, not just take a quick view at the surface of things, make judgments and move on. When you just peek at Jason Babin’s stat sheet you can easily call him a one year wonder. I like to call people that do that “Internet Scouts” and Brad Clark is clearly one of them in this instance.

In 2008 and 2009, Jason Babin put up 4.5 sacks so he must have been a bad player, right? Wrong. Jason Babin wasn’t starting on those teams, it wasn’t like he was playing all the snaps and only came up with 4.5 sacks, he was a reserve. But, he was an effective reserve. For example, in 2009 Jason Babin rushed the passer a grand total of 149 times. In those 149 snaps he had 2.5 sacks, 6 QB hits and 5 QB pressures. For being used so sparingly those are effective numbers. Extrapolate those numbers based on the number of snaps he received with the Titans and his stat line would look like this: 7.2 sacks, 17.4 QB hits and 14.5 hurries. Not bad.

Was there a jump in production in 2010? Absolutely, there was a jump in numbers on a per snap basis and as a whole. But maybe that was to be expected in the jump to Jim Washburn’s scheme. Is there going to be a regression? Probably. But his effectiveness prior to 2010 in limited snaps would suggest there is no reason to think that unless he is hurt or the Eagles never play him he will regress as far as Clark thinks he will. Plus, the game isn’t played on paper. The burst around the edge that Babin has isn’t going to magically disappear just because it’s a new season. The tenacity that Babin plays with has just vanished. The skill set is there for Babin to have another big year.

Realistically you could probably expect about 9 or 10 sacks from Babin IMO. He is going to regress a little bit, I’m positive of that but he is still playing in the same system that he broke out in with the Titans. And, unlike last year where he was the focus of offensive lines, Babin is playing with Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins so he won’t be the target of so much help this year.

DT Cullen Jenkins- Jenkins is one of the more talented interior pass-rushers in the game, but he’s had trouble staying healthy and hasn’t always played up to his potential. I find it fishy that Jenkins, at 30-years old, set a career-high for sacks (7) in only 11 games during his contract season.

Worries about the health of Cullen Jenkins are completely legitimate. Jenkins has missed 17 games in the past 3 seasons. However, that makes it sound worse than it really is. In the past two seasons he has missed 5 games and outside of 2008 (when he tore his pectoral muscle) he has missed 7 games in his career. He isn’t an iron man but I’m sure that people won’t be comparing him to Victor Abiamiri anytime soon.

But concerns about his productivity are not legitimate. He was off to a MONSTER start in 2008. In 4 games he had 2.5 sacks, 5 QB hits and 14 hurries. In 2009 he put up 4.5 sacks, 10 QB hits and 28 pressures. In 2010 he had 7 sacks, 10 QB hits and 28 QB hurries. The guy is a consistent difference maker as an interior pass rusher. His combination of strength, explosiveness and quickness make him one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. And the Eagles got him at a seemingly discounted rate.

Vick came to Philly humbled and prepared to take full responsibility for prior transgressions, whereas V.Y. has remained defiantly unaccountable. Young has never taken his NFL career seriously, and until I see concrete evidence that he does, the Eagles’ QB position has to be considered significantly weakened in the wake of the Kevin Kolb trade.

Wait… So this guy says that Young has remained unaccountable in Philly? Where did he hear that at? So far all the things that I’ve heard would suggest that he is a being a very avid understudy to Michael Vick. I call shenanigans.

And Clark takes the expected shots at VY’s character. We get it, Young has never been a poster child for the NFL off the field, no one has ever argued otherwise. Clark does leave out the fact that Vince Young is a proven product on the field in the NFL. Young has won 30 of 47 starts and he is one of the best downfield passers in the NFL today. He is still learning the system in Philly but once he gets a grasp on it you can expect him to be able to do the things that Andy asks him to do on offense. He can push the ball down the field and he can move around and buy time with his legs, Andy loves when his QBs can do that. If you want a more in depth view on our thoughts on the Vince Young signing, check this post out.

RT Ryan Harris- If CB was the Eagles’ #1 free agency priority, I’d say that RT was 1a. When healthy, Harris is one of the better RTs in the NFL. Key words being, “When healthy”. In his 24 NFL starts, Harris has allowed a mere 3.5 sacks. That’s Pro Bowl stuff. The problem is, with the exception of an All Pro-caliber season in 2008 that saw Harris start all 16 games for the Broncos, he’s never managed to play more than 10 games in any season. Considering that Harris is responsible for protecting lefty Vick’s blindside, his injury history makes this a risky free agency venture.

You know, this one just speaks to how well researched that article is. Ryan Harris has actually allowed 6.5 sacks on his career. I don’t understand the risky move part. How grabbing a talented young tackle at a low price is a risk is beyond me. There is little if any risk involved at all. If he gets hurt, oh well, it’s not like it was unexpected and he isn’t getting paid much. And in reserve the Eagles are going to have Winston Justice, a guy with starting experience. This is a low risk, high upside kind of move because Ryan Harris has the ability to keep Michael Vick clean.

 RB Ronnie Brown- What’s the big deal? Brown is thirty, injury-prone and averaged a whopping 3.7 YPA in 2010. I’ll take Jerome Harrison and his 6.0 YPA.

Well… This is going to be fun.

  1. Ronnie Brown is 29, not 30.
  2. Ronnie Brown wore down as the season progressed with the Dolphins. Like I’ve said, Ronnie Brown is not going to be a featured back with the Eagles so he won’t rack up the wear and tear that he did with the Dolphins. In the first half of the season last year Ronnie Brown had 101 carries for 433 yards at 4.28 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns.
  3. Clark can take Jerome and run, I hope that he enjoys him. There is a reason why the Eagles only played Jerome on 60 snaps outside of the Dallas game last season. Jerome Harrison isn’t a good receiver out of the backfield and he is a terrible blocker.  You can’t have a back-up RB that can’t catch the ball or block for the QB.
  4. Ronnie Brown is a significant upgrade over Harrison. Ronnie has more than double the career receptions of Harrison. Last year Harrison was used in pass blocking 16 times (yeah, he’s trusted that much) and he still allowed 1 sack and 2 hurries. Ronnie Brown was used in pass blocking 135 times and he allowed no sacks, 2 QB hits and 5 pressures. You’ll see how much pass blocking matters when the Eagles utilize Brown much more than Harrison.

And once again, I’m going to have to call “internet scout” on this guy. Sure, stats are cool but remember that skill set matters too. Ronnie Brown is far, far more skilled than Jerome Harrison and he can do more things on the football field. Ronnie Brown is bigger, stronger and faster than Jerome is. Ronnie Brown is more elusive than Jerome Harrison is. Ronnie Brown is a better blocker than Jerome Harrison is. Brown is a better receiver than Harrison is. With Ronnie Brown he can throw the ball as well. The fact of the matter is that you can do more with Ronnie Brown than you can with Jerome Harrison.

SS Jarrad Page- He’s made a combined 31 tackles in the last two seasons, while being cut loose by two different teams. Let’s hope that rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett gets up to speed in a hurry. The Eagles may miss Quintin Mickell more than you’d think.

First of all, he spelled his name wrong. Its Quintin Mikell.

But I really wish he would’ve expanded on this. How are the Eagles going to miss Quintin Mikell? Now I’m left to make the case for it and it’s actually a decent enough point. Mikell was a leader on this team who was a very good all around safety that made the team better. Will the Eagles miss Mikell? Sure they will but when you compare the additions of Asomugha, DRC, Babin, Jenkins, Young, Harris, Page, Lee, Higgins, Hargrove and Landri the Eagles have come away from this offseason with a net gain. Plus I’ve got faith in Coleman’s, Jarrett’s and Page’s ability to step up in the wake of Mikell.

And Jarrad Page isn’t a scrub that is being tossed aside like Clark is trying to say. He was a three year starter for the Chiefs before he went to the Patriots and was the #3 safety behind Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather. Jarrad Page is a physical freak, he is built like a full back, hits like a full back but he runs like a safety (6’ tall, 239 pounds, 4.5 speed). Page can lay the wood, he is a big hitter. But what people don’t seem to remember is that Page is also a good pass defender if you put him in the right situation (deep half safety). Page has already picked off 12 passes and knocked down 27 more in his career. According to ProFootballFocus he has only allowed 3 TD passes in the past 3 years. The one flaw in his game is his tackling, he goes for big hits and is not the most secure tackler at the safety spot.

If you’re expecting Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu to walk through the doors, you’re going to be disappointed in Page. If you’re expecting a capable reserve that can be a spot starter in a pinch, you’re going to be happy with the move. And with Marlin Jackson getting hurt it looks like Page might have a real shot to make this roster.

WR Johnny Lee Higgins/TE Donald Lee/DT Anthony Hargrove- All three of these guys were in danger of losing their respective roster spots. Non-factors.

Were they in danger of not making their rosters had they stuck with their old teams? Maybe but that doesn’t mean they’re non-factors. That’s just not fair to call them non-factors.

Donald Lee is a guy that is a reliable underneath target and is an upgrade as a pass blocker at TE for the Eagles.

Anthony Hargrove is an energetic presence in the middle of a defense that can make plays when rushing the passer. Twice in his career has notched 5 or more sacks. I’m not saying the guy is a world beater but he isn’t a ‘non-factor’.

And Higgins is not a ‘non-factor’ at all. He is clearly a reserve as a receiver but as a special teams player you could do much, much worse. He has returned 3 punts for touchdowns in his career and he has averaged 23.4 yards per kick return. He is a clear upgrade as a kick returner over Jorrick Calvin and he will keep DeSean Jackson off the field as a punt returner.

And I’m sort of disappointed that this guy didn’t take the time to voice his opinion on Evan Mathis, that would’ve been interesting to hear.

I’m not going to hear anything about how the Eagles offseason is going to hurt them or make the team worse because doing so is completely illogical. The team won the division and made the playoffs last year. The talent that contributed to that is still here (outside of Mikell), the team cut the fat (Patterson, Sims, Bradley) and they added a bunch of impact players and upgrades all over the roster.

3 Responses to Some Thoughts On The Eagles Free Agent Signings
  1. Dan
    August 11, 2011 | 5:45 am

    The team got rid of Bunkley, not Patterson with regards to your “cut the fat” comment.

  2. Dan
    August 11, 2011 | 5:46 am

    And now I realize you speak of Dimitri.  Ignore comment.

  3. FrenchEagles
    August 11, 2011 | 8:37 am

    I wanted to post a long comment on his article saying more or less what you said, so thanks a lot for this. And still you didn’t discuss about his point in Asomugha when he explains that DRC will be bad, forgetting that Samuel is in the roster…