[Today’s guest column is written by one of the greatest Eagles fans ever. He posts regularly as Beanstalk, his nom de plume is Bob Downe, but I know him as Ben Watt from the great coastal waters of Australia:]
THE BALLAD OF NED FLANDERS by Bob Downe
As I sit here wallowing in the hangover from Eagles winning the NFL Championship again, the first time in my life time, savoring the oh so sweetly shortened blight….
The gawd damn mini blight of 5 weeks till Training Camp rears it ugly head and slaps me in the chops. You all know what this means, Wombat gets writers block and its time to hand in a blog article and stave off suicide statistics.
So? I love it when I get to say I told you so. So I’m doing it again with gusto. Recently me mate Ronald Darby did a piece with Philly.com, about being caught out playing on the Right side of the field at CB, and I went Ahhhh HA!!!!!!!!! I knew it!!!!!
Ever since dirty rotten Chip Kelly signed stinky smug Byron Maxwell, I have been bashing my face against the TV and the keyboard, that some blokes really can’t compute when switching from one side of the field or the other. It is a deadly serious thing that can have a huge impact on a team’s success. Sure some guys can. Some guys should never even contemplate it. AND GAWD DAMN PRO COACHES SHOULD KNOW THAT AS IF ITS CHISELED IN STONE.
How serious am I about it? I reached out to “The Phinsider”, Dolphins Sports Nation blogger, Kevin Nogle. To ask if they had moved Maxwell back over to RCB after we traded him, where he had played his whole career while at Seattle. The answer was yes and Byron was breifly even called the best player on the defensive team, by some Miami writers. Before being dumped by new coach Adam Gase and limping back to the Seahawks this year. Guess where they are lining him up?
Even when we were shopping for Cornerback’s, post Chip, it had me in a nervous state, about whether Undlin and Schwartz where aware of the importance of “favored” sides for players. Nolan Carroll was the only hold over from Billy Davis’ cornerbacks, but coming off a season ending broken leg, he barely held down the right side. Leodis McKelvin couldn’t stay healthy and rookie Jalen Mills was teething. We got abused all year on slant routes and it negated our pass rush all year. How important is your quick twitch reactions off a comfortable, dominant side of your body? Super important in increments of seconds I reckon.
Incidentally it cost another guy his job, who couldn’t generate pressure from guess where? His less favored position at Right End. Connor Barwin. While folks thought the switch from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 defensive end is what hurt his production, he explained in a piece with 247Sports, after his release, that switching sides hurt his game more. (Seen here – https://247sports.com/nfl/philadelphia-eagles/Bolt/Connor-Barwin-explains-why-he-was-released-by-the-Eagles–51897993)
Jim Schwartz had no choice really, because he busy getting his best pass rusher in HIS best spot, Brandon Graham, who had been through a nightmare shuffle on the right himself, even being asked to play outside linebacker at one point there. I will always wonder what could have been, if Trent Cole stayed at RE and Cracker on the left? Hindsight is odd.
Its got so serious for me now, that is the exception, not the norm, to find guys who have or can seamlessly swap sides and succeed in NFL. Even pre-draftmus last year before we took Derek Barnett, I had narrowed down all my defensive ends to guys who played predominately Right End, foreseeing that Vin Curry would likely struggle after playing 3-4 Left End, then 4-3 RE on passing downs while Graham kicked inside. Derek broke Reggie records at Right End, so I was ecstatic when we got him, and Schwartz won’t be moving him from there EVER.
Its not just the defensive side of the ball either. You only need to watch Lane Johnson try and play LT and you know he should just…..not. Stoutland spotted it early on thank goodness. Even one of his prodigy’s from Alabama, Chance Warmack, has struggled mightily in the NFL after being drafted 10th overall. He played his entire college career under Stoutland at Left Guard, and the geniuses at the Titans plug him in at RG and EXPECT him to succeed. Sorry, computer says No! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lu1xyYx3Eo)
The next true drama will really be Sidney Jones. Jalen Mills seems to me, to be one of the few guys that can move either side if needed, and Schwartz’s golden boy, already got preference over Darby last year. While Darby was hurt, rookie Rasul Douglas, who played all of college on the right, was allowed that spot, Jalen was scooted over to the left after starting the year on the right, but when Darby returned, he stayed on the left and it was Darby who was asked to play on the right….and in his own words, he explains it was all peaches and cream.
Darby quoted here from Paul Domowitch’s article –
“It was new for me playing on the right side,’’ he said. “My whole career, especially in Buffalo, I was the left corner. Coming back off the injury and moving to the right side was something I had to get used to.
“You start to become dominant on one foot rather than the other. Almost like being righthanded, and then out of nowhere, somebody says, ‘All right, now start writing with your left [hand].’
“To be honest, it’s just like that. But it’s going to help me in the long run. Once I master playing on the right side, I already know how to play on the left. So I’ll be able to go both ways. Everything happens for a reason.’’
Darby said he’s much more comfortable on the right side than he was last season.
So there! I told you so. Some can. Some claim they can. Some admit they can’t. Some lose their jobs because of it. Left or Right matters. Now where the fug did I put my bloody mary.
*Wombat, please edit this muck to legible drivel. I’m hungover as fuck and not sure if any of it makes sense or runs on properly.
Cheers, See you soon on my transcontinental invasion of Merica—Bob!