With Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, many expected the Eagles to move Jordan Matthews to the outside, and line Josh Huff up in the slot. That is not, however, what the plan is. Huff has been lining up with the first team offense on the outside in Maclin's place, with Matthews remaining in the slot.
Huff could see some time inside, but the plan is for Huff to run many of the same routes Maclin did -- including going deep. Huff is the quickest receiver on the team, and the Eagles will be giving him a chance to stretch the field, much like DeSean Jackson did two seasons ago.
Ask Riley Cooper how much the Eagles like their receivers to be able to block, and he will respond by pointing out he played 980 snaps last season, second most on the team. That is a good sign for Huff, who is perhaps the second-best run-blocking receiver on the Eagles, behind only Cooper. Huff should be able to stay on the field, and keep rookie Nelson Agholor off of it, by being a strong run blocker.
When the team drafted Agholor, it was assumed that he would start. That could still end up being the case, and Agholor has the skills to be a star in the NFL. It will be Huff, however, that gets the first crack at the starting job, with Agholor on the bench.
Agholor could end up taking one of the starting spots, from Huff or Cooper, but he will have to do it in training camp, and won't be handed the job.
The prevailing assumption is that Agholor will start alongside Matthews, who could play outside or in the slot. If Matthews is in the slot, then there's an opening for Huff or Cooper on the other side. Then there's the matter of Zach Ertz, who is rumored to be in line for more snaps as he pushes Brent Celek for the starting job. Ertz could also play more in two-TE sets, but that will send two of the aforementioned receivers to the bench. Training camp will be key for all the Eagles' receivers -- the only player seemingly assured of a big role is Matthews.
When healthy, Reed has averaged 10.5 fantasy points in PPR formats over the past two seasons. This extrapolates to low-end TE1 numbers and he's certainly a worthy start when he's healthy enough to play. His ADP is currently in the 14th round, so he's a low risk pick.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 9:32am
The Redskins need better blocking from their TEs.
This group was too inconsistent for the coaches when it came to blocking and that includes Logan Paulsen, too. It's not just on the offensive line to pass protect or open holes in the run game. They want, and need the tight ends to produce as blockers or other areas won't work.
Bill Callahan likes to involve the tight ends more than most in pass protection, though it does not sound like it will be a whole lot different than it was before he arrived. Jordan Reed blocked better as a rookie than he did last season and that can't happen again. Niles Paul's added weight will help in this area; he's worked on improving his angles and hand placement but sometimes was just outweighed. He's still slightly undersized but is a whole lot more suited to the position now than in the past.
The Skins loved Reed's offensive ability leading up to his rookie year when he eventually came out of no where to most. But Reed's problem is staying on the field. Last season, Reed's primary work came on short routes the story said. The article went on to say Reed's average air yards on passes thrown to him as a rookie was 6.61 while last season it was 4.40, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The result: Reed averaged 11.03 yards per catch as a rookie and 9.30 this past season. Reed is ranked just 24th on our TE list, but is capable of low-end TE1 numbers when healthy.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 2:31pm
With the Redskins offense now preparing for its second season under head coach Jay Gruden’s scheme, WR Pierre Garçon believes the Redskins are “further ahead than we were last year, as a team, as a playbook, as an offense.” The players are more familiar with the playbook, and “can keep getting more in depth…instead of starting back at step one,” as well as one another.
“Now we know each other,” Garçon said. “First year under our belt with each other, more camaraderie, hanging around the guys, seeing them, it’s definitely beneficial for us.”
In organized team activities earlier this offseason, Garçon and DeSean Jackson spent some time practicing at different spots from where they spent the majority of their time in 2014. After Garçon mostly played as the “X” receiver and Jackson became a stalwart as the “Z” in their first year working in Gruden’s offense, they practiced lining up in both positions this offseason. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons as a receiver, expects this to allow receivers to better understand plays as a whole by looking at them through multiple angles and perspectives, the story said. Garcon saw a major drop in targets last year, perhaps in part to instability at QB and perhaps also in part to the arrival of Jackson. Either way, Garcon takes a huge drop in our rankings this year, coming in at 50th with an ADP of the 10th round, so he's more of a flier or depth guy at this point. A lot of questions need to be answered in the Washington offense, but if Garcon get get back to his previous form he could be a nice value at that point of drafts.
The Redskins’ ranked 19th in the NFL in yards gained last year and their 4.2 yards per carry ranked 15th. That’s not good enough for a team that is as unsettled as the Redskins are at quarterback. Whether it’s Robert Griffin III behind center or Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy, the QB will benefit greatly from a running game that is better than something right around the league average.
So there will be changes in way they do things. One is a more power-oriented ground game. The other may be some form of running back by committee.
“The running game nowadays, you need to have a couple of guys that can tote it,” Jay Gruden told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 earlier this week. “Sixteen games is a long time, that’s a lot of games, a lot of carries, that’s a lot of hits on these running backs.”
Gruden said that he would like to split up the carries more than he did last year, when he went with what was mostly a one-back attack. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks on the roster, Roy Helu, Silas Redd, and Chris Thompson, combined for 59 rushing attempts. That is 82 percent of the carries for Morris, 18 percent for the rest.
Most backs come into the NFL with some innate ability to run the football. But it’s learning to do the other necessary, less glamorous work that separates an NFL running back from a guy who can find a hole and pick up some yards.
The story went on to say in his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Gruden spread the workload in different ways in different seasons. In 2012 he had BenJarvus Green-Ellis take 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But in 2011 it was a 70-30 split between Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. And in 2013 Cincinnati drafted Giovani Bernard and gave him 170 carries to 220 for Green-Ellis (that’s a 56-44 split in percentage terms). The story also added the roster can often dictate who gets the carries, and Gruden, in the interview, added that Morris would get the bulk of carries with Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Silas Redd getting chances to get the carries Morris won't get. However, the story continued to say if Gruden can find another running back or two, it could be more of a running back by committee approach than we have seen with this team in the past.
As the season progressed, it was clear that Zach Ertz was taking on a larger role in the Eagles' offense. Over the final four-game stretch of the season, Ertz edged out Brent Celek in total offensive snaps (168 to 167), and his historic 15-catch performance (an Eagles record) against Washington in Week 16 was the shining example of what Ertz might be able to accomplish in his NFL career.
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Most (73%) of his snaps came on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint.
According to a person familiar with the situation who requested anonymity, Eagles QB Sam Bradford is "looking great", has been in the rehab room close to every day this summer, and should be ready to go when training camp opens.
That means Bradford should be out on the field for 11-on-11 drills for the start of training camp.
If Bradford is fully healthy and wins the starting job, then he's a threat to post low-end QB1 numbers in Chip Kelly's offense, which has been fantasy friendly towards quarterbacks over the last two seasons. The team is dealing with turnover at receiver, losing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in consecutive years, but Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz should be able to pick up the slack.
Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia was asked which rookies would contribute in 2015:
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. He’s expected to win a starting job, likely outside opposite Riley Cooper with Jordan Matthews in the slot. If that’s the case, he’ll be a fantasy factor as a rookie. Matthews finished #25 in PPR formats as a rookie last season. That sort of production is certainly feasible for Agholor if he plays starter's snaps and the team gets good play out of the quarterback position.
Former scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah joined Rob Ellis and Harry Mayes on 97.5 The Fanatic to offer his thoughts on the state of the Eagles heading into camp.
Nelson Agholor came up in the conversation. While Jeremiah might not be totally on board with the NFL exec that thinks Agholor is a number one receiver, he is high on the former USC wideout.
"I think he's a big-time guy. Ideally to me he is a great number two, I don't think in terms of the size and physicality that I would want in my number one guy, but I think he can be an outstanding number two," he said. "There's a lot of guys with his skill set that have been very, very successful. Emmanuel Sanders is who he reminds me of, and we've seen what he can do both in Pittsburgh and out in Denver. I think he's outstanding. He's very tough and he's very instinctive and I think he's one of these guys that we saw last year where all these rookies jumped right in, no adjustment period; I think he's going to fall into that [category]. He's going to jump right in and be ready to go."
“The more he gets around our terminology and understands it and learns it and can see it against different coverages, the better he is going to be,” Gruden said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “And he has shown improvement in the OTAs, which is exciting.”
“All three quarterbacks have [shown improvement],” Gruden continued, referring to backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. “Colt’s done a good job. So has Kirk. But Robert, especially, has taken over the leadership role and done some good things. He’s just got to continue improve. And we’ve got to be patient with him. There are going to be some bumps and bruises along the way, but I think we’ll be okay as long as we stay patient.”
RG3 averaged 12.0 fantasy points in the six games that he started and finished in 2014. That's what Blake Bortles averaged as the league's #24 fantasy quarterback. We know Griffin is capable of more, but he hasn't been the same player since his rookie season. Specifically, he's not running the ball as often or as effectively. The team has a nice receiving corps and a strong running game, so there is upside here.
DeSean Jackson's reality show on BET isn't exactly painting him in a good light.
Jackson, in a private moment with cameras, then admits that he has perhaps lost his way since his father, Bill, passed away in 2009.
"When I have football, I'm focused. Then once the off time comes, it's like, 'Ok, what's next?'" Jackson says. "When my dad was here, it was always, 'Ok, we're working out, we're training, we're training. But when my dad passed away, I did a lot of crazy things. I partied, I was spending money I shouldn't have spent...because I don't have that dominant voice to tell me I'm trippin."
His brother, Byron, also speaks to the bad influences around DeSean.
"My dad was very protective of who DeSean came out with and some of his friends," Byron says. "Since my dad passed, some of the friends have come back around, and they weren't good news for DeSean."
"There are definitely some people around I question," Jackson's sister, A'Dreea, says of his friends. "Their life is just like a big party."
Jackson had a good first season in Washington, but he was playing with a chip on his shoulder after being released by the Eagles. He used that as motivation to post 5-117-1 against Philly in Week 3 and 4-126 in Week 16. When the two Eagles games are excluded, DeSean Jackson played at a 58-1140-6.1 pace. Those are fringe WR2 numbers in PPR and solid WR2 numbers in standard formats. Will he play with the same motivation in 2015?
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 10:30am
In his first year as the head coach in Washington, Jay Gruden figured he could coach the quarterbacks himself. Gruden was a college and arena football quarterback, and he wanted to take a hands-on approach to the most important position.
But after franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III struggled last season, Gruden decided he needed an assistant who could spend all his time coaching the quarterbacks. So Gruden hired a full-time quarterbacks coach, Matt Cavanaugh. Gruden says he can already see that Griffin is benefiting from Cavanaugh’s presence.
“Now we have a set of eyes strictly on the quarterback, and I think that’s important,” Gruden said, via Richmond.com. “Every snap, every handoff, every dropback is being critiqued to make sure we do it the right way, and I think that’s been a big benefit for Robert.”
Cavanaugh spent 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback for the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles and Giants, and has spent 23 seasons as a quarterbacks coach, first at his alma mater the University of Pittsburgh, and then for the Cardinals, 49ers, Bears, Ravens and Jets. Griffin agrees that he’s benefiting from Cavanaugh’s knowledge, the story went on to say. Despite that, we have Griffin ranked 20th among our QBs and he isn't getting a lot of draft attention in ten team leagues. The potential is there, and if you're looking to grab a second QB late in your draft, Griffin should be there.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 10:12am
Keim: As of now I'd lean toward Alfred Morris being the starter. That's because I haven't seen any proof that Matt Jones will develop into that guy. I also believe Morris will remain productive. After talking to people in the NFL, it's not as if everyone loved Jones and some rated him well below the third round. His game action from Florida was mixed, though I do think he can be a bigger threat on third down than he was at Florida. Jones has the size coaches love and he's shifty so he has a chance. But before I start thinking about discarding Morris I want to see what Jones can do.
Morris ranks 15th on our RB list and continues to be a nice RB2 option for fantasy owners. He continues to be limited by his use in the passing game. Even with Roy Helu out of the picture, we figure on Jones getting more receptions than Morris.
Add it up and when he was healthy Jordan played 337 of 612 snaps. That’s about 55 percent of the plays, amounting to a heavy part-time load. When he played in 2013 he was targeted 7.8 times per game. Last year his targets per game (again not counting the games he left early due to injury) stood at 6.9. Despite being healthy, he was virtually ignored in games against the Vikings (1 target), Eagles (2), and Bucs (2).
I shouldn’t give the impression here that Reed was not used at all. His 65 total targets were fourth on the team and more than anyone besides the top three wide receivers, despite missing five games.
Still, it’s hard to look at the snap counts and targets and figure that Reed will be a “major part” of the offense even if he’s healthy. That could change but probably not initially. I can see him starting out the year playing about half of the snaps and if he stays on the field his workload could increase to where he’s playing, say, 70 percent of the snaps. If he’s on the field more his targets will increase and he could become more of a part of the offense.
But it all starts with Reed staying healthy. If that happens I’m sure that the team will figure out ways to take advantage of his considerable talents.
If Reed were to average 6.9 T/G over a full 16-game season, it works out to 110 targets, which would have been the 5th-most among tight ends last season. His problem is that he can't seem to stay healthy and isn't currently healthy enough to practice. Tandler mentions that Reed's playing time may increase as the season wears on.
Tandler: If [Chris Thompson] stays healthy he is definitely a threat to get the job but I’m putting my hypothetical money on [Matt Jones]. I think that Jay Gruden and company think that they might have quite an unusual weapon in the rookie and they will give him a shot to see what he can do.
El-Bashir: After getting a good look at Jones in OTAs and minicamp, I’m now expecting the Florida product to end up as a direct replacement for Helu, meaning he’ll occasionally spell Morris and fill the role of third down running back.
Helu finished the season as the #31 RB in PPR formats, and that was with Alfred Morris playing a full season. It's possible that Jones will post RB3 numbers in PPR leagues as Morris's direct backup and Washington's third-down back.