Clemson’s DE Da’Quan Flowers (# 93, right) is considered by many to be the top defensive end in the 2011 Draft. Here he gets pressure on Florida State QB Christian Ponder…Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been surprisingly candid lately about his desire to build a better pass rush. (Photo by Jeff Blake)
Watching the Oscars last night, I nearly fell out of my armchair when Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s production company won the coveted prize for “Best Documentary (Feature)” with the movie “Inside Job”…Directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon, the film takes you behind the scenes of the economic crisis of 2008 on Wall Street.
Maybe that’s a good omen for the Eagles to take home the gold in 2011, I couldn’t help but muse… I also found some ironic meaning in the film’s title, as earlier in the weekend Andy Reid was quoted in rather uncharacteristic candor as being committed to building up his inside pass rush and his defensive line in general.
Skirmishes between the loyalist leaders of PE.com’s On The Inside fan gallery and the anachronistic yet loveable Mr. Wood had led me to investigate Reid’s tip of the hand on the defensive line. Mr. Wood is running out of patience with the Reid era, and regularly calls for a greater investment of talent and money by Reid into creating an old-fashioned run-stuffing, pass-batting, quarterback-wrangling sack machine.
I like many of Wood’s more moderate readers have been somewhat content with the progress of the Eagles’ D-Line, which has been known in the Reid era for emphasizing smaller yet more athletic defensive ends and tackles. Filling the gaps and containment seemed to be good enough most of the time. Leave the sacks to the blitz alignments. Contain and cover, contain and cover…
But Mr. Wood led me to the Eagles Bloghead where Reid was holding court this past weekend, and the transcript had a few eye-openers:
“The mentality we want is: ‘If you’re lucky enough to get in the red zone on us, you’re not getting in the end zone.’ It’s that mentality. It’s an aggressive mentality from a coaching standpoint and player standpoint,” Reid said. “And when that doesn’t work, as you’re looking at that as a coach, that’s not a good thing.”
Well I’ll be…! Coach Reid actually admitting a deficiency in the “contain and cover” philosophy? And he’s apparently calling for a more aggressive attacking approach from his defensive line.
“I think our defensive line is fast. I think the way Jim’s (Jim Washburn’s) style of defensive line is, that part, the speed part, will be exploited, and Juan’s done a nice job of tying in the front that we want with coverages and linebackers,” Reid said. “It’s all going to fit together. So it’s not just the defensive line playing (better), it’s also linebackers and secondary fitting into the scheme. Juan has studied that and really knows (how to achieve) that.”
Mr. Wood interprets that last quote to mean even the head coach now realizes the Eagles defensive line has been underachieving. Reid is still committed to fast and versatile linemen; but reading between the lines, he wants more situational help from his linebackers and defensive backs to create pressure— which will free up linemen to get into that opponent’s backfield.
Mr. Wood also implies that, in Reid-speak, Andy is tipping his desire for stronger defensive line personnel. “We need immediate impact at DE and some young’uns who can play a few downs this year. Trent Cole isn’t forever–2010 wasn’t exactly a great season for him either… over-used or worn-out? you tell me?,” said Wood.
“Birds must look to FA acquisition to upgrade DE Juqua Parker–and Brandon Graham is now a back-burner rehabilitation project. I’m liking Panthers CHARLES JOHNSON as FA upgrade to DL. Draft could upgrade the DE/DT mix as well….Brodrick Bunkley’s days should be numbered at DT.”
GK Brizer was not impressed by Mr. Wood’s interpretation of Reid’s apparent new focus on the D-Line: “Woody,..did you see tape,.watch any games, or really do research on CJ?……come clean…Woodie is the BORED’s Rainman,…..w/o the savant…Gotta get my boxer shorts at K-Mart,…boxer shorts,..K-Mart.,..Cincinnati….Boxer shorts,……..K-Mart suks!”
I love the friendly banter between GK Brizer and Wood, it’s a constant source of entertainment— and resultant enlightenment from the Socratic method approach to learning about football!
Here’s my take as simply as I can put it: The Eagles pass rush improved a little in 2010 over 2009…but not enough. The D-Line and the pass rush need a bigger spark.
With an extremely deep defensive line class, especially among pass-rushers, there is plenty of opportunity to draft a talented player with their first-round pick. As many as eight defensive ends could go in the first round.
“It’s another good draft class, one of the best you’ve seen of guys who can put their hand down and get to the quarterback,” Tampa Bay general manager Mark Domenik said.
The top defensive ends in this draft start with Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers, who Auburn quarterback Cam Newton singled out as one of the talents at the combine that amazed him.
North Carolina’s Robert Quinn isn’t far behind. Quinn’s draft stock might be slightly depressed because he missed all of the 2010 season because of an NCAA suspension.
“I think he’ll go in the top five,” NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi said. “I think he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the draft. Unfortunately, he missed a year. So I could see him being the first pick overall, actually.”
Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is a player who could fit for the Eagles and be around in the middle of the first round. In a draft analysis in Lindy’s magazine, Kerrigan was compared to Kampman.
“I’ve been able to put together some [good] college seasons back-to-back,” Kerrigan said. “I think my production overall, and I was a captain. I think that will speak volumes for some of the scouts here.” Plus, he played in a 4-3 defense very similar to the Eagles base.
Then there’s Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and California’s Cameron Jordan. Jordan could be a late first-rounder or an early second-rounder. He played in college with Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and said he tries to emulate Alualu, who was selected 10th overall last year.
I think that’s what Andy Reid is trying to tell us: All these young talented pass rushers are out there, and if he has to spend a high draft pick to get one, well, he warned you! No offense intended to ends Darryl Tapp, who I thought had a very good year in certain pressure situations, or to Trent Cole, or Juqua Parker, or tackles Mike Patterson, Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon, who are the current glue of the interior… but I think Andy feels he is still one or two impact pass rushers away from the top level. He knows Brandon Graham still may become one of those missing sparks after he rehabs his knee…but if Andy drafts a defensive end with a very high pick, don’t shoot the messenger… since most Eagles fans are dead set on a top-pick cornerback or a linebacker…or a big offensive lineman.