Friday, March 13, 2015

Six Points About The Eagles Signing DeMarco Murray *and* Ryan Matthews

Ride, Taken
Part of the presumed goal last week (you remember last week, right? We were all so much younger then) was that the Philadelphia Eagles were not going to spend so much money at running back, which has become the most fungible position in the NFL. Instead, they were going to become more like the ever-imitated New England Patriots, who do stunt work like picking up LeGarrette Blount off the trash heap and having him win a Super Bowl, or tossing James White in for some 200+ yard 4+ TD aberration. The line matters! And the QB. Running back, not so much.

Then, the club went out and tried to grab Frank Gore, which made most in the fan base slap themselves over, well, the fact that Gore wasn't McCoy, and was a heck of a lot older. Given that NFL RBs tend to age like overfed big dogs, the fact that Gore was good last year didn't seem to matter, but at least he came relatively cheap, and maybe he was just seen as a caddy / injury protection to Chris Polk. Probably makes more sense to just get a fresh rook there, but well, the Kelly tempo offense is a lot of carries, and Gore didn't cost that much. So be it.

Then, Gore decided to go to the Colts instead -- thoroughly defensible, considering that team was a game away from the Super Bowl while coasting through a year in which they were pretty much a world-class fraud -- but the team pivoted to the tolerable Ryan Mathews. Mathews is best seen a very poor man's McCoy, as he's had persistent injury issues, but at least is someone who has three-down ability, and can do pretty much everything you would want an RB to do, other than stay healthy. Plus, hey, first round pedigree, good size and speed. Your opinion on Mathews is pretty much directly linked to if you've owned him while he was hurt in fantasy, or while he was healthy.

So, Mathews, Polk and Darren Sproles. Not as good as McCoy, Polk and Sproles, but what the hey; good at RB doesn't matter quite so much any more, that's money they can theoretically use somewhere else, and the team still needed a S, WR1 (in the worst way), and G...

Um, say what now?

Well, it turns out that RB DeMarco Murray, criminally overused by Dallas last year but clearly the best RB in the NFL in 2014, is an ex-college teammate of new QB1 Sam Bradford. And interested in coming over, and fine, that works to drive up the cost for Dallas to keep him, but they aren't serious about spending big cap dollars at...

Yeah, they signed him. For not quite McCoy money, but in the freaking ballpark.

But it's OK, because Mathews hadn't officially signed yet, and they can just walk away...

Um, say what now?

Yeah, they signed him, too. For pretty much the same money they were throwing at Gore.

Six points about this.

1) I think that Kelly thinks that he has a tactical advantage over the rest of the NFL when it comes to avoiding injuries. His teams play at a faster pace, he conditions them differently, he feeds them differently, and for all of the noise about how time of possession will turn your defense into worn-out shells of their former selves by the end of the year, that hasn't been the case. As banged up as the offensive line was at the start of 2014, they were mostly healthy by the close, and the only major injury for the defense was DeMeco Ryans.

For his sake, I hope he's right, because nearly everyone brought in during FAPalooza has had massive time in the trainer's room. Murray, Matthews, Bradford, Alonso, Thurmond, just a laundry list of ouchie.

Kelly would say that this is why they available. I'd say this is why he's paid too much to get them. And that 2015 will be spent with a lot of If Only X Was Healthy, We'd Be Better.

2) In Murray and Mathews, the Eagles are bringing in not one, but two guys who have had issues staying healthy, and you are spending the most on the guy who nearly carried it 400 times last year. Maybe the thought here is that you need redundancy in the eventuality of an injury to either guy, but that seems like a fairly expensive insurance policy. Especially when you are projecting starter snaps to Riley Cooper, G to be named later, and a bunch of guys who haven't been healthy.

3) The thought is that the Eagles are going to be such a tempo plus production offense that 40+ carries a game will happen each and every week, with the split going something like 20-12-5-3 between Murray, Mathews, Sproles and the beleaguered Polk. (Oh, and Polk at the goal line, to save the stars from concussion and to drive fantasy guys out of their minds.) That keeps everyone fresh and hearty all the way through the grind of the season, but also assumes that the offensive line is dominant and healthy -- two things they were not in 2014 -- and that the lack of anything resembling WR1 (or even WR2) isn't just going to mean so many defenders in the box that running plays aren't going to work.

4) At least we've got the simple joy of Cowboy Fan Freakout, as their best offensive player last year goes to the Hated Rival. Burn them jerseys, Boys Fans! Just remember that if your old man gets hurt (again) and more seriously, he's done you a great service by destroying your rival's salary cap. Just kind of like how that Terrell Owens signing didn't really work out for you, when you got him off the Andy Reid slag heap. If only this kind of move actually worked out in real life. Remember the big RB spending of the Carolina Panthers a few years back, and how well that worked?

5) What, exactly, has Polk done to deserve being RB4, when he might (might) be the second best back on the roster, and doesn't actually make a ton of money?

Oh, right. He was here Pre-Kelly. And, strike two, didn't go to Orgeon. Shame on you, Chris Polk!

6) And just when you thought it might be safe to look at sports news again, with much of the roster crash being done... rumors that the club is shopping Pro Bowl G Evan Mathis, in that Mathis is 33 and makes actual coin, and also isn't a guy who was brought here by Kelly. (Memo to guys on the roster who were not brought here by Kelly: Rent. Do not buy. Anything.)

Um, the team still needs to fill Todd Herreman's spot. And Mathis was really good in 2014, and guards don't fall apart at 33, and none of the back-up guys in 2014 seemed all that world-beating, and we still have three holes among the 22 starters, and if this team is going to be anything, it's going to be because the OL is great...

But we're absolutely loaded at RB3 and RB4, with people you've heard of and everything.

Just like, well, no other really good team in the league.

It's a mean trick, signing the best player away from the team we hate the most, and having it still be a day where a big portion of the fan base thinks it's all going wrong, wrong, wrong...


Anonymous said...

Kelly seems willing to try anything on offense. Maybe we'll be seeing a lot of split back formation, utilizing both Murray and Matthews (or Sprole) in the same play.

BLSD said...

As a Raider fan, I don't have much to do but look on as other teams make moves as no one except Christian Ponder (!) wants to play in Oakland. Which leaves me time to be objective about other teams moves. Chip Kelly amuses me a great deal. Eagle fans shit themselves understandably when McCoy goes away, following Jackson last year. Then the big trade for Sam (ACL)Bradford, the acquisition of an entire collection of good but injury prone running backs costing more than McCoy. I mean, it is great theater, if not sensible football. Is Chip insane, or is he really three steps ahead of everyone? Here's where not being Eagle Fan is helpful, I can sit back, wait and see where this goes.

JJMtn said...

Good luck with that split back idea.... If Matthews plays in six games it will exceed his previous average games played per year. Kinda hard to line him up from the training table, but at least Chip the mad genius will have a new formation to befuddle the opponent with. As a thirty plus year Iggles fan in San Diego, the entire city is a.) holding our collective breath and praying they don't move to SmellA and b.) sitting in stunned amazement that Matthews signed another NFL contract somehow. With his gaudy stats from the three to five games played per yer he is the epitome of "if only he wasn't hurt" and/or "he just can't catch a break" as he breaks another bone. At least he can keep Sam company on adjoining training tables....

DMtShooter said...

Responses in order...

1) Split back formations are all well and fine, but someone has to block when they don't have the ball. Not sure any of these guys are going to be very good at that.

2) It's not the insanity that's driving us nuts here, it's the erratic nature. There's a lot to like in the Kelly Era: good special teams, innovative play calling, the occasional ability to get seming studs in FA, tempo, the first good group of LBs since the early days of Andy Reid. But the overpaying for other team's damaged goods, and the willingness to let home-grown talekt walk for nothing, is just maddening.

3) Mathews was always going to get another deal. Good When Healthy always gets you work, especially when so many guys in the league are Just Not Good.

4) The team that makes sense in LA is the Rams, if for no other reason than to teach school children the proper definition of West. This is also where I go into my hopeless rant / dream of relegation and promotion, so that cities don't get held hostage for teams. Would be the single best thing to ever happen to sports in this country, raally, it would...

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