A recent quote from Chip Kelly help explains the rationale behind Philadelphia’s turnover. Plus, insight into international scouting, the two running backs who are poised for a big year, and Osi’s retirement
1. I think this was an interesting Chip Kelly quote, highlighted by CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank, about how a lack of depth at the offensive skill positions last year hampered the Eagles’ play-calling: “Yes, there were times when you were calling plays and thinking, ‘Who is in the game?’” Kelly said. “The play call changed a little bit.” It speaks to the master plan behind the Eagles’ roster overhaul that we’ve all speculated about this offseason. A priority for the Eagles was not necessarily having one or two stars at the receiver or running back position, but a deep group of skill position players. They need to rotate in and out because of how much they run in the up-tempo offense, so Kelly prioritized a top-to-bottom upgrade to be able to call the same plays no matter who is in the game—something he didn’t feel like he could do in 2014, as Frank writes.
2. I think I spied two running backs who looked much improved from their 2014 form this preseason: Tennessee’s Bishop Sankey, a second-round pick last year, and Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, whose production has sagged in the two seasons since his 1,000-yard rookie campaign. You can never make too much out of the preseason, but both backs were running more decisively—and more help in the backfield would be good news for two offenses breaking in rookie quarterbacks.
3. I think Jameis Winston is to “Sunday” as the Mannings are to “Omaha.” That’s the word they yell before the snap, which usually signals that the center will snap the ball on the next word out of their mouth. You could clearly hear Winston barking “Sunday” on a series of plays during Tampa Bay’s preseason game vs. Cincy, which, along with ESPN's overhead cam behind Winston, made for a cool window into what the rookie was seeing and saying pre-snap.
4. I think teams scouting international talent via YouTube, as 49ers GM Trent Baalke said he did to find Australia Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne, is more common than you might think. As far as I know, even teams with personnel guys whose official responsibilities include scouting international talent, such as the Colts’ Jon Shaw, don’t travel outside the continent to scour for players. There’s enough work to do mining and evaluating talent here at home that teams looking for diamonds in the rough overseas rely on word of mouth and video sources like YouTube and Hudl. In regard to Hayne, if there’s any coach in the NFL who’s willing to put in the time to develop a player transitioning from another sport, it’s San Francisco’s Jim Tomsula, the former NFL Europe head coach. “I’m comfortable in that arena,” Tomsula said this summer. “People have to get past that in the development. When they come into this sport, they are elite athletes, and it takes them a little while because even in rugby you tackle differently. But it’s a cool transition to watch it happen.”
5. I think this is a smart take from Andy Benoit on the player who may be the league’s next great cornerback: Stephon Gilmore. When Rex Ryan arrived in New York, in 2009, he and Dennis Thurman, then the Jets’ DBs coach, put their talented third-year cornerback, Darrelle Revis, in position to have one of the best seasons a defensive player has ever had. That’s obviously a high bar, but Benoit’s point is that Gilmore has the instincts and skillset to be used in a similar way to that which spawned Revis Island.
6. I think, speaking of Revis, one of the things that makes him such a special player is how far in advance he prepares for the receivers he will face each season. Starting in the offseason, he goes through each week of the schedule and analyzes the No. 1 receiver he might be defending on each team, taking detailed notes. When I visited with him last week at Florham Park, he said he already made it as far as the Jets’ Week 9 opponent. “Way ahead of the curve,” Revis said.
7. I think my sense of the Texans’ quarterback decision is that Ryan Mallett would have had to dazzle to earn the job over Brian Hoyer, and he just didn’t do that. Bill O’Brien mentioned Hoyer’s “consistency” and “composure” when announcing him as the starter, speaking to the trust factor that O’Brien felt with Hoyer. You could tell Hoyer felt that trust, too, by the way he comported himself on the practice field even when it wasn't his day to take first-team reps. He carried himself like he was the guy, not in a cocky sense, but in the way he was steadily in command of his teammates and the huddle.
8. I think watching the Rams’ starting offense, which has yielded just five first downs, one field goal and one turnover in six preseason drives, reminds me why they drafted Todd Gurley, and how much they need the rookie running back to return to his explosive form post-ACL injury.
9. I think this native Penn Stater is marveling at the fact that there are four Nittany Lions in the Jaguars’ starting lineup: WR Allen Robinson, C Stefen Wisniewski, MLB Paul Posluszny and DE Jared Odrick. I can’t remember the last time that many Penn Staters have been in one NFL team’s starting lineup.
10. I think Osi Umenyiora, who announced his retirement at Giants headquarters Wednesday, should go down in history as the best strip-sack artist of all time. He just had a knack for pulling them off and energizing the team at big moments. Consider his 75-yard scoop-and-score against the 49ers in his first Super Bowl season, or his stripping of Aaron Rodgers in the postseason win at Lambeau in the second championship run. He never would reveal his trick, though, no matter how many times we asked. He'd always reply with something like, "It's what I do." Maybe in retirement he’ll divulge his secret?
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