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Eagles vs Ravens Instant Analysis

The Eagles looked every bit the part of a Super Bowl contender in the brief period their first unit was on the field tonight in their win against the Ravens.

Here is some instant analysis from tonights performance- both what went well, and what the team has to work on.

GOOD:

Front Four- From the very first time the Eagles defense took the field, it was obvious that the front four were going to be better this year. Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn has been riding his players hard during camp, and it paid off. The front four looked great, as they continually got in the back field each time the Ravens snapped the ball. On one play, new Eagle Jason Babin got pressure on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, and Trent Cole finished off the play. The sack came on a 3rd down, getting the Eagles off the field. Getting off the field was a problem for the defense last year. But the new front four, coupled with good coverage by the secondary, should go a long way in fixing that problem.

Kick Offs- The NFL got what they wanted when they changed the kick off spot to 35- they eliminated the return game. Both of the first kicks by the Ravens and Eagles traveled out of the end zone. Why is this a good thing? Because it has been years since the Eagles had a good kick returner- and they have been just as bad stopping it.

Wide Receivers- For all of the talk about the unit being depleted, they sure didn’t look it.  Jason Avant, Chad Hall, and Riley Cooper all made tough catches against the Ravens. Avant’s first catch of the game showed why he has been opening eyes at training camp. He catches everything thrown he way. offense not the same without Jackson and Maclin, but looked ok.

Micheal Vick: The play that best summarizes Michael Vick’s maturity as a player was his long completion to Riley Cooper. Vick could have ran, but waited for Cooper to get open and threw a razor sharp pass on the money. After the play, Vick went up to Cooper and showed him a better way to run the route, and to cut inside next time. The sequence showed what a leader Vick has become, and why if he stays healthy, he will be the NFL MVP this season.

Jaiquawn Jarrett: Jarrett has had a quite camp, but it didn’t take long for him to make some noise against the Ravens. Jarrett made a great play when he read the eyes of Ravens Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and got low to pick off the ball. Jarrett also got over to the sideline and was ready to lay a big hit on a Raven receiver until the ball went out of bounds. Jarrett showed on that play why he was a high draft pick- he may not look great in practice, but when the lights come on, he can make plays.

Vince Young: He was not perfect, but Young showed why if Vick goes down for any amount of time, he will be the starting quarterback. Young led his team on a 10 minute drive that resulted in a field goal on his first series in at quarterback, and did so by making things happen on broken down plays. Young eluded two Raven players on a third down completion to Chad Hall that went for 32 yards. Young also scrambled for a first down on a play where the Ravens collapsed the pocket on him. Young showed why the Eagles signed him- when you throw technique out the window, Young simply gets it done.

Ronnie Brown and Dion Lewis- Ronnie Brown looked fast in his first action as an Eagle. He showed the  good moves. threw his body into a raven on one run on the sideline. great stutter step on 3rd down rush in the beginning of the second quarter on McClain. Lewis, easily the smaller player on the team, played big in his first NFL action. Lewis did not shy away from contact on his first run, and showed some of the moves that made him a 5th round pick. Lewis also turned a screen pass into a big play, as it took 2 Ravens to bring him down.

BAD:

Kelce- Rookie Jason Kelce did not have a good game after opening so many eyes at Lehigh. Kelce got beat badly by a member of the Ravens on a play late in the first quarter, allowing the pocket to collapse on Vince Young. Young was able to scramble and get a  first down, but it doesn’t change that fact that Kelce looked over matched on the play. Kelce may very well turn into a great center, and a Jeff Saturday clone like Offensive Line coach Howard Mudd sees him. But in his first NFL action, Kelce did not look like a player who was ready to challenge Jackson for a starting job.

Reid Challenge of Avant Touchdown Catch- Andy Reid was in midseason form on the first Eagles drive of the season, as he pulled out the red flag on a play that was clearly an incompletion to Avant in the end zone. You have to wonder if these challenges are Reid, or if he is getting bad advice from people upstairs. In addition to it being a bad challenge, why wouldn’t Reid want to see his team get some more reps on the goal line?

Mike Kafka- Andy Reid says he likes Kakfa, but Kakfa did not look sharp. His interception late in the second quarter was both a bad throw and a bad read, as Kafka did not see the Ravens safety sitting their waiting for the ball. Kafka also looked slow after following Michael Vick and Vince Young. If the Eagles have to put Kafka in for any amount of time this season, they are in trouble.

Kurt Coleman- Coleman made a rookie mistake on the first play of the game when he didn’t turn his head around on the first completetion of the game by Joe Flacco. Coleman could have made a play on the ball if he turned around, as it hit him in the helmet before the catch was made. Although he’s only in his second year, Coleman is a veteran in the safety unit, and needs to make that play.

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Training Camp Report: Saturday Practice

The Eagles took the field for their last real practice on Saturday morning before the hitting starts tomorrow.

The stands were packed as Saturday was the first time the fans were able to come watch their team practice. If you weren’t there, here are some of the players who stood out.

Dion Lewis– Lewis has clearly been hitting the books with LeSean McCoy. One of the hardest things for rookie running backs to do- especially in the Eagles system- is to learn how to pick up the blitz. One two occasions, Lewis did just that. Despite being perhaps the smallest player on the field, the former Pittsburgh running back stepped up and stopped Daryl Tapp from getting to Mike Kafka.

Lewis also had a good day catching the ball. His small size should help him at the next level, as on screen plays it was almost impossible to see him as he stood between the huge offensive lineman. Lewis showed speed and good hands on multiple occasions.

Marlin Jackson– Eagles fans won’t want to hear this- but Marlin Jackson has a good chance of making this team. Jackson has missed the last two seasons with injuries, but the Eagles must see something in him to keep him on the roster. He showed some flashes of what the Eagle see in him today, as he broke up multiple passes and was in other other plays. Whether or not he makes the team will have a lot to do with his health, but his veteran presence in an otherwise young secondary could be used if he can keep making plays.

Trevard Lindley: The pressure on Trevard Lindley to make a jump this season dropped significantly when the Eagles added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. If the Eagles do in fact hold on to Asante Samuel, then Lindley is now battling with Joselio Hanson to see who will be the 4th corner on this team. What Lindley showed flashes in limited action last season was on display today, as he was all around the ball. A few times Lindley got his arm in front of a receiver to break up a pass. On one play, Lindley jumped a route and got both hands on the ball, only to drop it. Although that is a play he has to make to take the next step, Lindley still showed signs today that he is ready to contribute to this defense.

Chas Henry: Perhaps no player got more “oohs and ahhs'” from the crowd today then Chas Henry, the rookie punter from Florida. During special teams drills at the end of practice, Henry boomed the ball on multiple occasions what seemed like 60-65 yards. When Henry really connects on a ball, it is a thing of beauty, as the ball hangs in the air without even moving, only to drop what seems like a mile from when he punted it. Henry also had some nice placement punts, getting it to the sideline and deep in the 20 on one drill. But like most rookie kickers, Henry had some shanks in-between the bombs.

Jerrod Johnson: With Vince Young still in street clothes, Jerrod Johnson was running the 3rd team offense. Johnson, a undrafted free agent rookie quarterback out of Texas A&M towers over almost every player on the field other then King Dunlap. Johnson looks the part, as he is fast and has the height to see over the offensive line. While he showed flashes today, extending multiple plays with his legs and taking a few up the middle when his coverage broke down, he also showed why he was not drafted. Johnson threw a ton balls of that no where near resembled a spiral, and over threw his receivers multiple time down the field. Still, Johnson has been impressive enough that he could end up on the practice squad.

Eagles sign Jason Babin

The first big move of the Eagles offseason has finally done, as the team has signed Pro-Bowl defensive end Jason Babin to a 5 year deal, according to Jay Glazer of FOX.

Babin to the Eagles is something that has been speculated for some time. Babin admitted yesterday that the two sides were in discussion. The deal is reportedly with $28 million dollars, with only $5-6 million of it guaranteed.

When Babin will report to camp, are not yet known.

Babin two seasons ago

From the day the Eagles brought Jim Washburn over to be the defensive line coach, it was assumed that Babin may end up here. After playing on the Eagles two years ago, Babin went to Tennessee and excelled up Washburn, making his first Pro-Bowl. Babin finished with 44 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 16 games. The 12.5 sacks marked a little less then half of the 30 career sacks he has compiled in his 8 year career.

During his time with the Eagles in 2009, Babin played in only 12 games after having an excellent preseason. Babin said during an interview this offseason that his lack of play was frustrating, and insinuated that it put a strain on his relationship with Andy Reid. Babin finished that season with only 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Here is Babin’s reaction to signing with the Eagles via Twitter.

Will Babin continue his success here? The Eagles better hope so, as he will most likely be their only big free agent signing. While Washburn has shown he can get the best out of Babin, anytime a player who has not done it on a consistent basis is signed to fix a major need, it has to be considered a risk. Babin’s age- 31- could also be a red flag.

More details to come.

Eagles Free Agents: Keep or Let Walk

Preparation in the NFL, perhaps more then in any other sports, creates winning. That will be particularly true this offseason, when the teams will be forced to make spilt decisions and act fast. During a free agency where players will look to strike fast, a team must know more then ever who they want and how much they are willing to spend going into it.

The Eagles will be working with roughly $20 million dollars this offseason to improve a team many already view with as a Super Bowl contender.

Here is a list of the Eagles who are now free agents, first starting with the ones they should keep- and the others they should let fly the coop.

Free Agents to Keep:

Quintin Mikell, FS–  Mikell is a player the Eagles should absolutely bring back. He is a veteran presence at the youngest position on the team, he wants to be here, and will be in expensive to keep. However, he knows the writing is on the wall and has likely played his last game with the Eagles.

Stewart Bradley, LB– Bradley is the easiest amongst this years Eagles free agent crop to decide on: Bradley is young and talented, and despite missing time to injury over the last two seasons, still has his best days of football ahead of him. Bradley is believed by many to be more suited to the play to outside, which he can do now that Jamaar Chaney is slated to start in the middle.

Akeem Jordan, LB- Akeem Jordan should continue his battle with Moise Fokou this season for playing time, only now it might end with one of them not getting a job. The Eagles hope that rookie Casey Matthews can beat out both of them for playing time, but can’t count on it. Bringing in Jordan gives you some options on the line if Bradley gets hurt or Fokou’s play slips.

Max Jean Gillies has been working hard to regain his spot on the team

Max Jean Gillies, OL- New Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd likes his lineman slim, which is one word that definitely does not describe Man Jean-Gillies. The offensive line man has reportedly slimmed down this off season, which should help his chances. But one reason the Eagles should bring him back? Because the lockout is going to hurt the development of rookie Danny Watkins, making a veteran the now slimmer veteran all the more valuable

David Akers, K- How important are kickers? Think about this. Despite the poor record they ended up with, the Dallas Cowboys lost the majority of their games last season by one possession or less. Think they wouldn’t be more then glad to offer Akers the deal the Eagles won’t give him?

Sav Rocca, P- Pretty easy decision here for the Eagles. Once the lockout ends, give the Australian born kicker his work visa and get him back to Lehigh.

Nick Cole, OL- Nick Cole brings some flexibility on an offensive line that has some major question marks.

Eldra Buckley, RB- Buckleys main contribution to this team is on special teams, where he excelled last season. Buckley also brings something that LeSean McCoy and rookie Dion Lewis do not- some power to the running back position.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Ernie Sims, LB- Ernie Sims is a coaches worse nightmare. He has all the physical tools in the world, but is unable to put them to use. As Garry Cobb of 610WIP once told me, Sims is unable to master the mental part of the game. What did that lead to last season? Almost no big plays from the former first round pick. And now it will lead to him being shown the door.

Ernie Sims has the physical tools, but can't seem to get it all together

Omar Gaither, LB- Talent alone will not keep Gaither on this team. Gaither has had multiple chances to win a starting job, and has never been able to keep it. The value Gaither does bring to this team is leadership, something he exhibited all last season amongst the linebackers. However, that may not be enough to get another deal from the Birds. He may be back, however, if no one else bites and he is forced to take a small deal to return.

Jerome Harrison, RB- Harrison was the second best back on the team last season, and played well enough to be featured more then he was. But Reid barely runs the ball as is, and with LeSean McCoy in front of him, his touches in Philadelphia will always be minimal. The drafting of Dion Lewis makes Harrison expendable, and will prevent a marriage that neither side really would be happy with.

Reggie Wells, OL- Wells did nothing for the Eagles last season, and nothing should change this year.

Victor Abiamiri, DL- Victor Abiamiri has been working hard this offseason, as he was a regular at Eagles unofficial off season workouts at Power Train. But he has never contributed before, and most likely will not be on the team this season.

Ellis Hobbs, CB- Ellis Hobbs has reportedly decided to retire, but it wouldn’t have made a difference- Hobbs was not coming back to Philadelphia.

Dmitri Patterson, CB- Dmitri Patterson started out strong last season, but ended it by getting burned nearly every game. He is the main reason the Eagles will make it a priority to bring in a cornerback, and there is little chance he is back.

Its Unanimous: NFLPA approves CBA, Lockout over

After a few days of worrying that the whole thing had fell apart, the NFL and NFLPA have both finally voted to approve the new CBA, effectively ending the lockout as we know it. Reports today say that all issues have been resolved, and a deal has been struck, which has now been confirmed by multiple other news sites.

The CBA now goes to the over 1900 players in the league for a vote, although that is considered a formality. No CBA has ever been approved by player executive committee, only to be voted down by the players.

The deal must also pass through the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL case, but that is also a formality.

After settling such big issues as the revenue spilt and rookie wage scale last week, the two sides were left to hammer out only small details, which they apparently have done. The owners stated their approval of the deal by passing it with a 31-0 vote.

Once the ink is dry on the new deal, a whirl wind of free agency signings, trades, and player cuts are expected to happen.

Here is the schedule of what the upcoming week  is believed to look like:

Tuesday: Teams are allowed to start talking to free agents

Wednesday: Players begin reporting to their team.

Thursday: Player physical/conditioning tests

Thursday-Saturday: Helmet only practices

Sunday: First practice in full pads.

Make sure to keep checking in for up to the second details on all the Eagles moves. Also, follow @EliotShorrParks on twitter for updates as they come in.

Vince Young makes sense for Eagles

Take a look at the seasons these two quarterbacks, a year apart in age, had last season:

Player 1: 2-3 record, 60.8 completion percentage, 1197 yds, 7 TD, 7 INT

Players 2: 4-4 record, 59.6 completion percentage 1255 yds, 10 TD, 3 INT

Players 1 is on the trade market, with demands of at least a first round pick.

Player 2 is expected to be released and is looking for a backup job.

Player 1? Kevin Kolb.

Player 2? Vince Young.

In all likely hood, Kevin Kolb will not be an Eagle by this time next week. The offers for the backup quarterback will be to great for Andy Reid to turn down, meaning that perhaps the biggest hole on the Eagles will soon be the back up quarterback position.

Which is why if the Tennessee Titans make good on their word to cut Vince Young, the Eagles should jump on the opportunity to add the former Pro-Bowler.

After looking at the numbers above, the Eagles will be getting great value while upgrading at a position if they bring in Young to be a backup quarterback behind Michael Vick.

It is not hard to make an argument that Young is a better quarterback then Kolb. Kolb is lauded for being an accurate, smart quarterback who gets the ball out quick. However, he has not shown that so far. For his career Kolb has more interceptions (14) then touchdowns (11). Kolb was sacked 15 times last year in only 7 games. Numerous scouts have pointed out that under pressure, Kolb looses his footing and makes bad decisions.

Vince Young, on the other hand, was sacked only 9 times in 12 games two seasons ago when he was a full time starter. For his career, he has thrown just as many interceptions as touchdowns (42). However, over the last two seasons he has 20 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. He also has shown the ability to run with the ball, as he has rushed for over 200 yards 3 times in his 4 year career.

But perhaps the stat that is most telling about Vince Young is his career winning percentage. In the 47 times Young has started a game, he was victorious in 30 of them. That gives him a career winning percentage of 63%. Kevin Kolbs career winning percentage? 42%.

Vince Young is a winner. He won in college, and despite a tumultuous relationship with Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, he won there. If Michael Vick goes down, the Eagles need someone to come in with confidence and win a game. It’s safe to say that Young, who was called the “best leader he’s ever seen” by Texas coach Mac Brown, fits that description.

In addition, Young gives the Eagles a backup plan if Vick were to suffer a serious injury. Andy Reid loves project quarterbacks, and in Young, he has a player he could build for a year or two before handing over the reigns to the team. Signing Young allows the Eagles to trade Kolb away for the high price tag he will demand, without completely risking the future.

It’s unknown if Vick will accept a backup role, and how he would handle being backup for another year- and maybe more.

But if the Eagles can convince Young to buy into it, they will once again have the best backup quarterback in the league.

Time for Goodell, Smith to make a deal happen

After two days of meetings that included only the legal teams for each side, the big players come in today.

Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, assorted owners and players will enter the negotiating room on Thursday with one goal in mind: get a deal done.

Goodell and Smith need to make a deal happen

While in theory that has been the goal all along, negotiations up until a few weeks ago were all about posturing, not backing down, and flexing muscles. But with the first pre-season game a month away, and the first training camp less then 3 weeks away, the time has come to get serious and make a deal.

One source close to SI.com said that a few months ago, the two sides were “not even in the same stadium.” But after working through each issue bit by bit, the sides are now “in the red zone, driving, with the goal line in sight.”

Can the momentum be messed up on it’s way in for the score? “Absolutely,” cautioned the source.

It is estimated by Albert Breer that from the day the deal is done to the day the contract is signed will take 14 days. While the lawyers worked over the last few days to cut down some of that time, not much could be done without a deal in place. One interesting note was that it appears training camp rosters will be increased to as many as 90 players, 10 more then last year.

If the two sides needed anymore reason to make a deal by Friday, then the planned vacation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan on Saturday should be extra motivation. Boylan is a major reason that talks did not break down last week, when both sides nearly stormed from the table during the 13 hour negotiation marathon. Once Boylan is on vacation, he may not be their to keep talks going if they once again reach a boiling point.

If negotiations do reach that point, it will be up to Goodell and Smith to push through and convince their side that the time to make a deal is now. If they can do that, the NFL could leave this lockout without taking the major PR hit it will if even a single pre-season game is missed.

The two sides have taken enough time off since the lock out started. There is no reason that negotiations should not go through the weekend, or however long it takes until a deal is done. If the sides are as close as reported, then the work needs to be done to hammer it out and make it official. There is a thin line between being close, and the sides becoming frustrated with each other for not making the final compromise to get a deal done. If negotiations go into late next week, that point may be reached. Once that point is reached all momentum will be lost, and the pre-season becomes in serious jeopardy of being missed.

So when the two sides meet tomorrow, they need to do so with a mind frame that the time for playing games has passed.

Get a deal done- and now.