We start with a moment of silence (not difficult on this site with recent connectivity issues, but still…) for a fallen Eagle and an underdog hero from my youth:
Eagles mourn the passing of former DB, Nate Ramsey…The Neptune, New Jersey native was one of the longest-tenured players in franchise history.
Ramsey fought his way onto the 1963 Eagles roster as a not-highly-recruited cornerback and 14th round draft pick out of Indiana. At 6-1, 185, he kept fighting and kept his job for 10 seasons with the Eagles. He was not particularly fast or quick, but he had the hand-to-hand combat thing down pat. Today’s rules changes might have exposed Ramsey more than he was exposed in coverage for the Eagles, but for the era he performed in, he was more than adequate.
I remember as a star-struck youth the Eagles he played for. The 1963-1966 Eagles were fairly competitive, as the saying goes, but from 1967 to 1972 they were a pretty bad team defensively. Specifically I remember so many times being down by 7 or 13 in the 4th quarter, and glued to my transistor radio wishing for Ramsey (the last line of defense in a porous system) to come up with a big turnover. Sometimes he did. He finished with 21 career interceptions for the Birds.
QB Charley Johnson of the Cardinals used to target Ramsey (back then the Cardinals and Eagles were in the same division) and it used to burn me up. Nate upped his game and induced Young to underestimate him. On November 28, 1965, Ramsey picked off three passes against Johnson. I was screaming “YES!” at my radio after each one.
The guys he played with in the defensive backfield included Al Nelson and Joe Scarpati. Those are distant reference points for you younger viewers.
Funny how when you are like 15 or 16, Nate Ramsey seemed like an old man of the sea. But the fact is, he was only eight years older than I. Losing him at age 77 is a real wake-up call for yours truly. Father Time is winning.
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Speaking of cornerbacks, right now Ronald Darby is on the good side of Time. But his contested medical status may have cost him a sweet free agent deal with the Kansas City Chieves.
KC was going to pay him until their doctors came up with conflicting diagnoses on Darby’s reconstructed knee. Darby lost the second half of the 2018 campaign to the ACL injury.
When Kansas City hemmed and hawed, the Eagles stepped in and signed Darby on a 1-year deal worth up to $8.5 million. I don’t know how much of that is guaranteed money, probably $4.5 million at most, but apparently Darby decided a Bird in the hand is etc. etc.
It’s a calculated risk by the Eagles. The riskiest part for me is that Howie Roseman seems to be operating from the assumption that the Eagles are suddenly “loaded” at cornerback. He believes he can afford a flier on Darby. Personally I don’t buy that.
Cornerback rotations can be decimated in a single game, let alone a full season. You can never have enough healthy and skilled veteran cornerbacks. Knowing the system is one thing in Darby’s favor, but ultimately if Darby occupies an active roster spot, he’s got to be able to perform consistently on the field at full strength, because you just know his number will be called eventually.
I’m not sold that the current roster of cornerbacks being promoted as good enough to sustain a slow controlled rehab period for Darby is really all that:
Avonte Maddox (CB/S)
Yeah, knowing that the Schwartz system can fit these guys into somewhat competent formations is helpful, but whenever the Eagles’ pass rush is stymied, you just know these guys are in trouble. Find the elite cover guy in that group. I can’t.
I want to tell Howie that Darby is not the short-or-long term answer at corner. Please keep searching for that special guy in the draft and on the waiver wire.
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And now for that long-awaited essay on “False Hustle”…
You know it when you see it, but it’s still hard to define. You see it more in high school and college football than you do in the NFL, but it’s there when a guy gets beat badly on a coverage assignment then ends up diving to make an ankle-tackle at the 3-yard line while his man has already crossed the goal line, or a guy goes way out of bounds to apply a late hit, or crosses the field to jump in late on a tackle which has already been blown dead.
These are examples of “false hustle” because they are futile attempts to impress coaches and fans with “extra effort” when in fact the effort has no bearing upon the play.
But you have to allow for exceptions.
Vince Papale was accused of “false hustle” when he was trying out for the Eagles in 1976. Dick Vermeil often ordered his team to run laps both before and after practice. Papale would always be the first to cross the finish line at full sprint. In passing drills staged from the 50-yard line, Papale would always sprint full-speed after making the catch and run all the way to the end zone. Veterans were at first appalled. But when Papale made the team primarily as a gunner on special teams, and eventually proved he was pretty good at it, suddenly “false hustle” became an endearing trait.
Papale later explained in his memoirs he was using “false hustle” simply to get the Eagles coaching staff to notice him, to somehow stand out from the rest of the rookie class as a 30-year-old unknown.
A similar exception to the rule was Pete Rose in baseball. Rose was an undersized high school senior who was not scouted or drafted. After being held back an extra year before graduation (“Have you seen Junior’s grades?”), he tried out for the Class AA team sponsored by Frisch’s Big Boy of Lebanon, Ohio in the Dayton Amateur League. Rose took on any utility positional job available, including backup catcher, second base and shortstop. He made his trademark (to get noticed) by sprinting full-speed to first base anytime he drew a walk.
Other players ridiculed him for it. But his uncle Buddy Bloebaum (a part-time scout for the Cincinnati Reds) was impressed enough by Pete’s emotional drive to succeed (and his improving ability on offense) to convince the Reds to give the kid a minor-league contract.
Whitey Ford gave him the derisive nickname “Charlie Hustle” after Rose sprinted to first base after drawing a walk in a spring training game. Rose adopted the nickname as a badge of honor. The rest, as they say, is baseball history.
So you have to be careful when you diagnose “false hustle”. But in summary, I think you can define it as “unnecessary sprinting”— with occasionally notable exceptions.