Archive for the ‘Philadelphia Eagles’ Category

#83 Brandon Myers - some shrewd business for the New York Giants

#83 Brandon Myers – some shrewd business for the New York Giants

With NFL Free Agency 2013 calming down somewhat (unless you are the Baltimore Ravens) it’s time to reflect on some of the key moves.

Now most pundits will focus on the impact of Wes Welker moving from the New England Patriots to the Denver Broncos or the ‘Fax-Gate’ scandal that saw the Baltimore Ravens snag Elvis Dumervil.

Myself, having played a season in England for the Crawley Raiders II as a tight-end, I want to spend some time looking at some of the Free Agency movement involving this position, and look at some very early projections for those who have moved and those who have inked deals in the past month to remain with their current team.

Before looking at some of the deck shuffling it’s worth reflecting on the rise of the importance of the tight-end.

We have witnessed the evolution of a two tight-end set from the old-school two tight-end set of five or so years ago when the Kansas City Chiefs would deploy Tony Gonzales as a real weapon and Jason Dunn as essentially a sixth offensive lineman to the almost unstoppable combination of New England Patriots duo Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (when both are fit).

I’m unable to do more than guess here but it sure feels that proportionally the number of catches made by the tight-end position on all 32 NFL teams has risen over the past five years. The majority of NFL teams have factored in the tight-end as a core offensive weapon and not a secondary or dump-off target for a quarterback looking for a cheap completion on a busted play.

So here are my top five tight-end free agency moves (in no particular order):

#1 – Brandon Myers – Oakland Raiders to New York Giants

I had the privilege of seeing Myers play live against the Dolphins just six months ago and despite not being anywhere near a household name he was the most reliable target for Carson Palmer. Myers deserves a bigger, brighter stage and there is no better place than the Big Apple to show what you are made of. After 32 catches in his first three seasons Myers pretty much exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 79 catches for 806 yards. Big Blue fans love a hard working reliable tight-end – names like Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey are pretty hard to live up to, but Myers has the skills to settle in immediately. Eli Manning will be happy that he has a safe pair of hands to throw to as he looks to get the Giants back into the postseason.

2013 prediction – 75 catches for 750 yards and 7 tds

#2 – James Casey – Houston Texans to Philadelphia Eagles

Casey was woefully misused by the Houston Texans as a hybrid fullback and despite only 66 career catches, and similar to Myers, he enters his fifth NFL season with a huge opportunity to make a big impact with his new team. That team, the Philadelphia Eagles has a new coach, a new philosophy and a quarterback who is returning for his fifth season in the home of Rocky Balboa. this equates to the ‘land of opportunity’ for Casey, much like the ‘line’ given to Rocky by that greasy haired promoter.

2013 prediction – 57 catches 520 yards and 5 tds

#3 – Delanie Walker – San Francisco 49ers to Tennessee Titans

Without doubt an unsung hero on his old team, Walker had a habit of coming up with big catches in big situations. Having spent seven seasons on the West Coast, Walker never had a real chance to shine, providing a support role to Vernon Davies over every one of the past seven seasons. With Jared Cook’s locker not even emptied Walker will be hoping to slot in as a starter. It’s quite a rare situation to be a backup tight-end for seven seasons before moving into a starting role. Walker is the kind of player you root for, but Jake Locker is a significant downgrade on Colin Kaepernick. Walker will not be going back to a Super Bowl anytime soon with the Titans, but he should have his best career statistical output in 2013.

2013 prediction – 48 catches for 580 yards and 3 tds

#4 – Dustin Keller – New York Jets to Miami Dolphins

When you are being targeted by Mark Sanchez, and have a backup who is better known for kneeling down than throwing a forward pass then being able to escape that situation must be like a breath of sweet Florida sunshine air. Talking of Florida sunshine that is exactly where Keller is now plying his trade as a Miami Dolphins starter. Keller will replace, and upgrade the play of Anthony Fasano. Now Keller was injured for half of 2012, but he is not known as injury prone. He has averaged 48 catches a season over five years, but he has been held back by average to poor quarterback play. In Miami Ryan Tannehill was the forgotten man as other 2012 rookie quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck commanded the headlines. Keller and Tannehill need to set up a strong bond in camp, and if they do it could mean very good news for Fish fans.

2013 prediction – 66 catches for 670 yards and 5 tds

#5 – Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans to St Louis Rams 

Potential is a funny old word. To me its a way of saying expectations being unfulfilled. A bit like the career so far of Jared Cook, all 6 ft 5 inches of him. Cook has again been let down by some average quarterback play and some bad play-calling. In St Louis he will need to work alongside Lance Kendricks. Both had almost identical stats in 2012, so something will have to give. I think Cook will get around 65% to 70% of the tight end targets from Sam Bradford. The Rams are going to be intriguing to watch in 2013 with a new look backfield and the marauding Cook exploiting any safety coverage mismatches.

2013 prediction – 65 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns

Other notable moves include Tony Gonzales remaining at the Atlanta Falcons for one more shot at a Super Bowl, and Martellus Bennett (Giants to Chicago Bears) which could work if Jay Cutler realises that there is actually another offensive target aside Brandon Marshall.

There is also the rather low-key saga of where current Washington Redskins tight-end Fred Davis will end up in 2013 – Buffalo, New York or back in D.C being the three main contenders.

How do you rate your teams tight-end depth and would you have liked to have seen one of my top five free-agent tight-ends joining your team?

Advertisements
S-Jax - will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

S-Jax – will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

It’s been a crazily busy week as 2013 Free Agency in the NFL has been in full effect.

Starting with some big wide-receiver moves, including Wes Welker (going from catching bass from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another) and Mike Wallace moving to the Florida sunshine, its been tough keeping up with all the moves.

One team that I think has been a big winner is the Atlanta Falcons.

The NFC Championship losers just two months ago, they grabbed the best free-agent running back on the market in the form of veteran punisher Steven Jackson.

Jackson has been a loyal servant to the St Louis Rams, whilst the talent around him has been pretty atrocious over the past decade.

Jackson came into a Rams team that was fresh from two Super Bowl appearances, but has been about as competitive as Mother Teresa in the time he has been there.

Like Barry Sanders, Jackson was the brightest shining star on a team of grubby meteors (always descending), so to be picked up by a team that was less than a touchdown from the Super Bowl will be one almighty relief for him. S-Jax will be a significant upgrade on the chunky thighed plodder Michael Turner, and he will provide a formidable backfield partner to third-year back  Jacquizz Rodgers.

Rodgers has not had the chance to prove himself as a three-down back, and wont get the chance now Jackson is signed, but he is a great receiver in the backfield with 74 catches in his first two seasons in the NFL.

In addition the Falcons persuaded future Hall of Fame enshrinee Tony Gonzales to come back for one more season.

There are some excellent tight-ends available in the 2013 NFL Draft, and the Falcons may pick one up as the heir-apparent in Round Two or beyond, but to have Gonzo back, with his 70-90 catches is going to have Matt Ryan smiling.

Atlanta have also re-signed safety William Moore and offensive linemen Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker. No superstar names here, but keeping your own garden tidy is always important if you want to grow sweet smelling roses.

With the free-agency market showing  few signs of slowing down we can expect more movement this weekend, and I will be spending time reviewing every move.

A few of the quieter free-agency moves, beyond those taking place in Georgia, that have caught my eye  include:

  • Lorenzo Alexander (LB) Washington to Arizona – Alexander is not a household name, nor a starter even, but he went to the 2013 Pro Bowl as a demon special teams tackler. The Redskins could not afford him because of salary cap penalties, but they will miss him for sure. In Arizona he will get the chance to start at outside linebacker, but I doubt he will become a Pro Bowler again in the desert.
  • James Casey (TE/FB/HB) Houston to Philadelphia – Casey moves from a Texans team where he should have featured as a 50-60 catch tight-end, but instead was used as a fullback. In Philly he should be moved all over the field and could have a huge 2013 being the safety blanket for Michael Vick in new head coach Chip Kelly’s explosive offensive scheme.

More free-agency commentary to come, after I get a decent coffee.

Broadway Joe kicked off MNF in 1970

This lockout is as much fun as a trip to the dentist so any news about any type of NFL football on my television screen is good news.

Which is why an email from NFLUK earlier this week made me grin maniacally from ear to ear.

ESPN in England (to all you USA based fans this is a watered down lot of programming and not a like for like ESPN feed that you would get) has made an agreement with the NFL to show old ‘episodes’ of Monday Night Football.

As someone who has almost half of his Sky+ recording box hard drive memory packed with about 50 episodes of ‘NFL America’s Game‘ I am an absolute Barry White on the sound system style lover when it comes to watching old NFL footage.

A number of games have already been scheduled in to be shown, including the inaugural episode, which will satisfyingly be the first ever MNF game, held on September 21 1970,  featuring the New York Jets (led by Broadway Joe Namath) and the Cleveland Browns.

Now I have to confess that as someone who has lived in England all his life I did not grow up with MNF, but as far as buying into the drama, the aura and the significance of the last game to be played every week during the regular season I think it is a perfect idea.

I only really agreed to pay for ESPN (an extra satellite tv subscription here in England) last year because it offered exclusive live MNF coverage. I would like to report that I got my money’s worth.

My highlight/lowlight from MNF last year was the coming out party of dog killer Michael Vick as he executed one of the greatest single game performances in regular season history (see here). As a Redskins fan and a Vick hater it was like watching a 3 hour car crash, but one that you could not help but rubberneck the entire time.

The ESPN retro MNF fun fest begins in July.

Hopefully it will be double good news by then, with real 2011 free agency under way and preparations for the 2011 NFL season in full swing.

Regardless, getting to watch NFL legends from the last four decades slug it out on my tv screen is going to be a treat.

 

After almost two years behind bars its time to say 'Return of the Plax'

In the 1990s a British guy called Mark Morrison had his only true pop chart hit with a song called ‘Return of the Mack’. Now if you tinker with the lyrics ever so slightly you will be singing ‘Return of the Plax, You know that I’d be back.’

The Plax of course refers to former Super Bowl winning WR Plaxico Burress who went from hero to zero after literally (not metaphorically like most idiotic NFL superstars who have run ins with the law) shooting himself in the foot at a nightclub.

Plax served just under two years in a state prison (Oneida Correctional Facility in New York – somewhat inappropriately situated on ‘School Road’ in Oneida County)   before his release this month.

Rumour has it that the Philadelphia Eagles want the former jailbird to add to their receiving corps, joining the explosive but shorter DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

Plax did him self no harm to the natives of Philly after he came out of the prison sporting a red Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap (see here).

With 2011 Free Agency about as lively as Jabba the Hutt after 100 Philly cheese steaks there is nowhere for Plax to immediately go, apart from the free world.

Even though his journey to freedom did not involve crawling through a 500 yard long tunnel full of human excrement (a.l.a. Red’s narration in Shawshank Redemption “Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine”) he did have a pretty crappy time I can imagine.

On a fantasy football front I think Plax still has enough determination and talent to get about 50 catches for 800 yards and 5 touchdowns if Roger and Demorrio ever get their fingers out of their asses and decide that it is mutually beneficial to actually have an NFL season.

For all you Mark Morrison fans – here is the video I mentioned at the start of this post. Yes readers its that desperate during these strike ridden times, I am resorting to 90s pop videos.

Have to admit I’m a sucker for an NFL legend. Spotting Jerry Rice at the Wembley NFL game was special, so to see his team-mate Roger Craig about 5 metres away from me was just as much fun.

I remember that the former 49ers running back used to paint ‘power pyramids’ on his ankles to give him mystical powers. Hell they must have worked as he won three Super Bowl rings, was in the NFL team of the Eighties, and most impressively was the first player in NFL history to run and catch for 1,000 yards in a season.

Roger Roger give us a wave !

Roger Craig and former Eagles fullback Cecil Martin get ready to bump fists at Wembley 31 Oct 2010

Under the helmet you will find 3 time Super Bowl winner Roger Craig

McNabb is playing at the Linc - this time without wings on his helmet

I have to admit its been a somewhat flat start to the season for me.

A week 1 win for the Skins (just – thanks Alex Barron – cheque is in the post!) followed by two collapses, has me thinking this will be another season of doom and gloom.

And then the juiciest matchup in the entire NFL in Week 4 lands on my lap, and praise the lord Sky Sports here in England have selected it as the 4.15pm EST (9.15pm here) live game.

Talk about great stories coming from this game;

  • Washington QB comes back to Philly for the first time in his professional career NOT wearing the green of the Eagles
  • Professional dog killer Michael Vick has cemented himself as the number one signal caller in Philly and will be looking to show off his silky running skills and big arm on Sunday.

What makes this games so special is not only the fact it is one of the fiercest divisional rivalries in the NFL, both teams have not been able to establish the run, so they will be looking to McNabb and Vick to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.

The Eagles for sure have faster, younger and more talented wide receivers, with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. In the Burgandy and Gold corner is a bunch of WR that excites me as much as a luke-warm cappuccino from a petrol garage.

My prediction – When he was traded earlier this year and asked about returning to Rocky Balboa’s home town McNabb said it ‘would just be another game’ – what a bunch of crap. McNabb will be fired up, but so will the Eagles fans, and so will Philly head coach Any Reid. This game has the potential to be a classic, but the Redskins are simply not worth the hype. Going 14-0 down early to the bottom feeding Rams last week was enough to convince me that Washington will be picking top 12 in the 2011 draft. Hate to say it but I have the Eagles by 10.

Prediction – Eagles 27-17 Redskins – Vick to pull off a few dizzying scrambles and Trent Cole to get to McNabb twice.