In the last week the Eagles made a couple of big moves. They traded for defensive end Darryl Tapp and signed running back Mike Bell to an offer sheet. Both players are good fits for what we need and help to make us a better team.
Tapp was a starter and backup for the Seahawks, but comes here to take over the left defensive end spot. Tapp isn't huge at 6-1 and 270 pounds. He isn't a great natural athlete. Tapp is a hard-nosed, overachiever type who a former coach described as a "rolling ball of butcher knives." That's the kind of guy you want on your side.
I watched a couple of Seattle games so that I could build my own scouting report on Tapp. Here are some observations:
• Quick off the ball, but not explosive. Tapp isn't athletic enough to consistently beat left tackles.
• He plays both sides, but looks more natural at left defensive end. He can beat right tackles.
• Good awareness. Tapp comes off the ball under control and reads the play as he's on the move. This keeps him from getting burned on screens and draws.
• Plays in a 4-point stance a lot. Not many guys do this, but Hugh Douglas, Trent Cole and Juqua Parker have all done it for us.
• Very good motor. He will make hustle plays, both in the run game and pass game.
• Uses his hands/arms well at times. Good shoulder dip. Re-directs well. Spin move needs to be improved.
• Effective when he has to drop in pass coverage because of a zone blitz.
• Not a "run around" guy. Tapp will battle blockers to hold the point of attack. He lacks ideal size, but plays with good leverage and is tough. He is able to shed blocks and find the ball.
I saw about what I expected. Tapp was a solid player for Seattle. Nothing more, nothing less. He was miscast at right defensive end. He just doesn't have the burst that it takes to get by left tackles. He was a try-hard guy on that side who made plays with effort. Left defensive end is a whole other story. I think he is a starting caliber player on that side. I also think Tapp is an ideal fit for our system. He is a good run defender, which is something we like in our ends. He's still a solid pass rusher. We can use him creatively if desired, but I think he'll mainly stay on the left side.
Tapp is young (25) and durable (64 straight games). He brings youth and toughness to the defensive line. He is not an impact player that offenses will fear, but Tapp does make the front line better. Parker won't give up the starting job without a fight. I'm sure the coaches will give Tapp the inside track, but he will have to outplay Parker this spring and summer to stay at the front of the depth chart. The coaches will give Tapp every chance to win the spot. They'd love a young guy to get that job so that he could possibly hold it for several years.
Some fans are concerned about the fact that Tapp only had 2.5 sacks in 2009. How much can he really help us? Tapp lost his starting job to former first-round pick Lawrence Jackson in 2009. Seattle didn't think he was a bad player. They just wanted to get their high pick on the field. Tapp became the top backup end. He was still productive in other ways. He had 40 solo tackles and seven tackles-for-loss, both excellent totals for a backup/spot starter. Tapp got consistent pressure on the quarterback. He just didn't deliver sacks.
Why was he expendable? New coach Pete Carroll apparently would like to install the 3-4 defense, either this year or in the future. He obviously didn't feel like committing to Tapp long-term was wise with the change in philosophy. Since Seattle is a rebuilding team their focus is on building through the draft. Tapp wasn't some failure that Seattle was looking to dump on the first team that came along.
While Tapp lacked great production in Seattle, it will be interesting to see how his numbers are affected by playing in our system. Seattle doesn't do the exotic blitzing we do. That creates some mismatches and some easy opportunities for guys in the front seven. Tapp's numbers could also go up due to the fact he's playing at left end with Cole on the opposite side. He'll be at his more natural position and have good pressure from the other side.
There are a couple of other things to consider in regard to production. Remember Derrick Burgess in 2004? He was our starting right end for the whole season and had 2.5 sacks. He then went to Oakland the next year and posted 16 sacks. Burgess was able to play a lot on the left side for the Raiders, which is where he was most comfortable. He had played right end opposite of Jevon Kearse for us in 2004 and struggled to beat left tackles. Tapp is more natural at left end. Am I saying he'll turn into Burgess? No way. I do think he can be a solid 8-sack guy on the left side. For some players, there is a huge difference in playing left end as opposed to right end.
Tapp started all 16 games in 2007 and did post pretty good numbers. Despite playing on the right side, he had 41 solo tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and eight pass deflections. He also picked off a pass. I'll be pretty happy if we can get that kind of production out of him.
I think Howie Roseman made a good deal in trading Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick for Tapp. He got us a player that fits our scheme and our team. Tapp has yet to play his best football. Putting him opposite of Cole in our aggressive, attacking defense will bring out the best in Tapp and make us better up front. We also benefit from having Parker move to being a backup, a more natural role for him where he can excel.
The Saints still have a day left to decide whether they will match the offer sheet given to Bell. They already have several running backs in place, so there is a good chance that they will pass on Bell. He was a good player for the Saints this year, but was also expendable. Pierre Thomas is the starter and workhorse runner. Reggie Bush is the dynamic playmaker. Bell was the north-south runner who did well around the goal line and in short-yardage situations. The Saints have a young guy named Lynell Hamilton ready to take Bell's spot.
LeSean McCoy is the starter and key running back for us. We do need help in the backfield. Bell is just the kind of runner we're looking for. He is 225 pounds. He runs behind his pads. Bell has a thick, sort-of-squatty build. He lacks breakaway speed, but has enough burst that he can break off the occasional 20- or 30-yard run. Bell is a one-cut runner. He likes to stay N-S as much as possible, but if given a cutback lane he can see it and has the ability to get there. That shows he has good feet and body control. Bell runs behind his pads and is a physical back, but he's not a power runner that will just steam roll tacklers ala Earl Campbell.
Bell played a lot as a rookie with Denver and then this past year with the Saints. Bell was quiet in 2007 and 2008. This year he ran for 654 yards and five touchdowns. He only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but that was partially due to a reflection of his role in the offense. Bell only caught four passes in 2009 and only has 26 receptions for his career. He did catch more than 50 passes in college and showed the potential to be a solid pass catcher out of the backfield.
Bell would give us a nice complement to McCoy. We need someone that can come off the bench for eight to 10 carries a game and be effective. Bell also can be a good short-yardage and goal-line runner. Leonard Weaver did a good job for us in 2009, but we're better off with him as the lead blocker and Bell running behind him.
Over the last seven years Brian Westbrook was "the man." His backups got used here and there, but Westbrook was so good that we kept him on the field most of the time. I'm hoping that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg get back to the running back by committee approach. McCoy is a very talented young player, but I also want to see Weaver getting his share of touches. I want another back, hopefully Bell, to get his share of touches. We had great success with multiple runners in 2002 and 2003. I hope we see a return to that type of attack. I also won't complain if they call an extra run play or two a game.
Sad End For The Big Kid
Shawn Andrews looked like a Hall of Fame-type blocker in 2006. He was a dominant right guard. We've had some good blockers in the last decade, but none of them could do what Andrews did. He was going to be special. He was going to be our Larry Allen.
Unfortunately, things fell apart for Andrews in the next few years. He had some injury issues that kept him off the field. We found out that he was battling depression, which I'm sure was heightened by being injured. Andrews also drifted away from football. From an outsider's perspective, it just didn't seem like his heart was really in it anymore.
If true, I hate that for us because of his enormous talent. At the same time, I want Andrews to find some happiness in his life. If that means he has to leave football in the past, so be it. Good luck, Big Kid.